Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland — All-time High in Number of Reports on Suspicious Financial Transactions

Keywords: Money laundering

Press Release, fedpol, 08.04.2010

Berne. Increasing by 5.3 percent over the previous year, the number of reports made in 2009 for suspicion of money laundering hit an all-time high since reporting suspicious financial transactions was made mandatory. An upward trend in the number of suspicious activity reports underway for the past three years continued in 2009. Never has the value of assets implicated, 2.23 billion Swiss francs, been more substantial than in the year under review. The banking sector accounted for two thirds of all reports.

In 2009, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) received a total of 896 suspicious activity reports (SARs), a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year. Never before since statistics on SARs were first gathered in 1998, have more reports been made. For comparison, in the previous record year of 2003, MROS received 863 reports. As in 2008, two thirds of all reports received in 2009 were made by the banking sector, followed by SARs submitted by the payment service sector. This sector is made up of two subcategories, providers and money transmitters. While the number of SARs from providers increased by roughly 35 percent in 2009, the number of SARs from money transmitters slumped by about 40 percent. In little under 54 percent of SARs submitted in 2009, property crime was suspected to be the predicate crime to money laundering. And just as in previous years, fraud was among the most frequently suspected predicate crime cited in SARs received in 2009 (37 percent).

Revised Money Laundering Act: Next to no change in reporting practice

The Anti-Money Laundering Act was revised and enacted in 2009. The revised act provides for a number of changes. For example, unlike in the past, reporting a suspicious financial transaction has become mandatory even in cases where contract negotiations have been broken off. Another new feature of the revised act is that financial intermediaries must submit all voluntary SARs (Swiss Criminal Code, Art. 305ter Sec. 2) exclusively to MROS. (Under the old Anti-Money Laundering Act, financial intermediaries were allowed to submit voluntary SARs to the prosecution authorities.) The fact that none of these new provisions resulted in a noticeable increase in the number of SARs is attributable to the circumstance that the banking sector, entitled by industry-developed regulation to report cases of attempted money laundering, submitted reports to MROS in the past already. Likewise, voluntary SARs were mostly submitted to MROS even before the Anti-Money Laundering Act was revised.

Record asset value

Reports on suspicious financial transactions in 2009 concerned assets amounting to a total of 2.23 billion Swiss francs. A few number of reports involving substantial amounts of money accounted alone for the lion's share of this sum: Two reports involving assets worth 725 million Swiss francs gave rise to the suspicion that the cases might involve investment fraud and market rigging. Two other reports involving assets worth 100 million Swiss francs suggested links to cases of suspected embezzlement and fraud committed abroad.

SARs regarding suspected terrorism financing

In 2009, MROS received but seven SARs on suspected terrorism financing. The assets involved in the reports, roughly 9,500 Swiss francs, were noticeably small, thus confirming earlier findings; namely that terrorism financing is characterized by the transfer of small sums of money. Only two out of the seven SARs showed any connection to one of the official terrorist lists. The other SARs were triggered by third-party information, either from newspaper articles or from a prosecuting authority.

Record proportion of SARs forwarded to prosecuting authorities

An average of 89 percent of SARs that MROS received in 2009 was forwarded to the prosecuting authorities in 2009. This figure betrays the fact that most suspicion reports were justified and well-substantiated. There was a noticeable increase in the number of forwarded SARs from the payment services sector. Again, it is important to distinguish between the subcategories, which are providers and money transmitters. The proportion of SARs submitted by providers and forwarded to the prosecuting authorities increased by 10 percent to a total of 97 percent, thus overtaking even the banking sector. The proportion of forwarded SARs from money transmitters remained much lower with around 63 percent, but was still up by more than 20 percent over 2008.

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