Switzerland makes progress in money laundering fight: task force report

The new 50 Swiss Franc note is seen at a market stall after its release by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in Bern, Switzerland April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland has boosted anti-money laundering measures over the last decade but could still do more to prevent financial crime, the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said on Wednesday.

Once a haven for untaxed and illicit assets, the small but influential finance hub has been stung into action by a global push to combat money laundering and financial crime. That has led to considerable improvement in its efforts since 2005, the global task force said.

“Switzerland demonstrates a strong commitment to mutual legal assistance,” FATF said in a statement. “It should continue to pursue its efforts on all other forms of international cooperation, including on the supervision of financial groups given the key role of the Swiss financial center.”

Legal reforms and assistive investigations had strengthened the country’s efforts and helped return considerable sums in a number of international grand corruption cases.

Swiss authorities have collected financial information and seized assets for their international counterparts in a number of prominent cases, including investigations into Malaysian state fund 1MDB, global soccer body FIFA and Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras.

But Switzerland should do more when it comes to preventing financial crime, the report concluded. In particular, banks and other financial intermediaries should step up efforts to spot and report suspected crime.

Banks too seldom reported suspicious transactions, the FATF said, and most such reports occurred only after information from external sources had come to light.

Swiss financial watchdog FINMA has called on banks to be more thorough in their checks and in October said 15 were in a “red zone” of lenders particularly exposed to money laundering.

The finance ministry said it would analyze the recommendations of the report and submit a corresponding proposal to the Swiss cabinet next year.

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Catherine Evans