April 7, 2016 / 1:00 PM / 3 years ago

Swiss banks must be more thorough in money laundering fight: FINMA

BERN (Reuters) - Swiss banks need to be more meticulous so that Switzerland can crack down on money laundering, the head of the country’s financial watchdog said on Thursday.

“What we’ve seen too often in the cases we’ve investigated is plausibility checks by banks that aren’t thorough enough,” FINMA chief Mark Branson told Reuters, referring to banks’ need to investigate the origin of money coming into an account.

Branson was speaking after the supervisory body’s annual news conference, at which he urged banks to step up their fight against money laundering in the wake of the so-called “Panama Papers” showing how offshore companies were used to conceal cash.

“We’ve got a few indications (from the Panama Papers) that may be relevant here (in Switzerland),” Branson said.

Switzerland is the world’s largest center for offshore wealth, with Boston Consulting Group estimating that around $2.5 trillion in foreign assets was kept with the country’s banks in 2014.

The size of the Swiss financial center has meant many of Switzerland’s banks have been caught up in financial scandals, such as corruption probes into Brazilian state oil group Petrobras and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign fund. Nevertheless, Branson said Swiss banks were not disproportionately implicated in such investigations.

“I don’t think Switzerland is over-proportionally involved in this data from what one can see compared to the size of the financial center,” Branson said.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Michael Shields

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