MROS reports sharp increase in reporting volume in 2007

Keywords: Money laundering

Press Release, fedpol, 31.03.2008

Bern. After a three-year slump, the volume of suspicious activity reports (SARs) has regained momentum. SARs from the banking sector reached a record high in 2007.

In 2007, the Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) received a total of 795 SARs (619 in 2006), which amounts to a 28.4 % increase over last year’s figure. It is also the third highest reporting volume observed since 1998, the year when MROS began gathering statistics on incoming SARs.

Large number of SARs relating to investment fraud

The rise in reporting volume is mainly attributed to the increase in the number of SARs received from the banking sector (+37 %), particularly those relating to investment fraud. Indeed, 2007 was a good year for financial activities and the stock market, enabling scam artists to dupe trusting investors with unrealistic offers of quick and easy gains. These activities triggered SARs from banks, which suspected money laundering.

In 2007, the total asset value of incoming SARs also increased by nearly 13 % to around CHF 921 million (around CHF 816 million in 2006). This increase was mainly due to the greater influx of SARs from the banking sector, made possible by the fact that the bank’s professional money laundering specialists now have efficient monitoring systems at their disposal.

Great surge in voluntary SARs

There was also a great surge (+110 % with respect to 2006) in the number of voluntary SARs submitted by virtue of Art. 305ter (2) of the Swiss Criminal Code. This is most likely due to the fact that more voluntary SARs are being sent to MROS rather than to law enforcement agencies directly, which has boosted the voluntary SAR figure in the MROS statistics. At present, Art. 305ter (2) of the Swiss Criminal Code still gives financial intermediaries the choice between submitting voluntary SARs to MROS or to law enforcement agencies. Mandatory SARs submitted by virtue of Art. 9 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, however, must always be sent to MROS. Here again there was a noticeable increase in the number of mandatory SARs: +11 % from the banking sector and +5.8 % from all other financial intermediary categories combined. Once again, the payment services sector was the second largest contributor of SARs (29 % of all incoming SARs came from this category), which certainly influenced the reporting volume in the MROS statistics. As in the previous reporting year, most of the SARs from the payment services sector came from the so-called "money transmitters" (68 % of all SARs received from the payment services sector).

Fewer SARs relating to suspected terrorist financing

As in the previous reporting year, MROS received fewer SARs relating to suspected terrorist financing. A total of six SARs were submitted, amounting to 0.03% (around CHF 233,000) of the total asset value of all incoming SARs.

Large proportion of forwarded SARs

The quality of SARs submitted in 2007 was high, enabling MROS to forward a large proportion (around 79 %) of incoming SARs to law enforcement agencies. However, the quality varied greatly among the various financial intermediary categories: while nearly 91 % of SARs from the banking sector could be forwarded, the same held true for only about 52 % of SARs from the payment services sector. The smaller percentage of forwarded SARs was mainly due to the large proportion of SARs from the so-called "money transmitters”, a subgroup of the payment services sector that gathers very little information about its customers and therefore tends to generate lower quality SARs.

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