MROS registers over 1,000 suspicious activity reports

Keywords: Money laundering

Press Release, fedpol, 28.04.2011

Berne. For the first time since the Anti-Money Laundering Act came into force, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) received over 1,000 suspicious activity reports (SARs) in 2010. This represents an increase of more than 29 percent over the previous reporting period and is in keeping with the trend of the last few years. The total value of assets involved fell to approximately CHF 847 million. Nearly 71 percent of the SARs were submitted by the banking sector.

A total of 1,159 SARs were submitted to MROS in the 2010 reporting period. This represents an increase of 29.4 percent over 2009.

The high number of reports can be mainly attributed to two complex cases from the banking sector. The numerous business connections reported in connection with these two cases generated a large number of SARs. Accordingly, the proportion of SARs from the banking sector rose to nearly 71 percent. The second largest contributor of SARs with a share of nearly 16 percent of the total reporting volume was the payment services sector, sub-divided in the statistics into providers and money transmitters. The total number of SARs from the money transmitters remained virtually unchanged over 2009, whereas the number of SARs from the providers rose sharply. Therefore, the 9.5 percent increase from the payment services sector arose solely from the increase in SARs from the providers.

In 55 percent of the cases reported, the suspected predicate offence could be classified under the category crimes against property. As in the previous years, fraud was the most frequently suspected sub-category, accounting for nearly 39 percent of all SARs submitted in 2010.

Impact of revised anti-money laundering legislation

The 2009 amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) relating to financial intermediaries’ exclusion from criminal and civil liability may have influenced reporting practices: under the amendment financial intermediaries no longer have to act “with the diligence required in the circumstances”, but only “in good faith”. This is in keeping with international standards and may have led to an increase in SARs.

Despite the increase in SARs, the total value of assets involved remained at a normal level of approximately CHF 847 million. In retrospect, the two previous years 2009 and 2008, involving a total value of assets of CHF 1.8 billion and CHF 2.2 billion respectively, must therefore be considered unusual.

Reports relating to terrorist financing

There was nearly a twofold increase in the number of SARs relating to suspected terrorist financing, from 7 in 2009 to 13 in 2010. This increase is put into perspective by the fact that three cases alone generated eight SARs on account of the multiple business relationships involved. Taking this into account, the situation in 2010 remained more or less the same as in the previous year. The total value of assets involved in the current reporting year were, at CHF 23 million, noticeably higher than in the previous reporting year (2009: CHF 9,500). The main reason for this difference is that one single SAR from the banking sector involved assets of nearly CHF 19 million. Ten reports were forwarded by MROS to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland: in six of these cases there was no hard evidence of terrorist financing. None of the terrorist-related SARs revealed any connection to one of the official terrorist lists, and most terrorist-related SARs were submitted on account of information gleaned by financial intermediaries from third parties.

Proportion of forwarded SARs remains high

The proportion of SARs forwarded to the prosecution authorities remained, at 86.5 percent, at a very high level and virtually unchanged over 2009. The high proportion reflects, once again, the excellent quality of the submitted reports. Once again, the banking sector was top of the list, the proportion of forwarded SARs from this sector remaining practically unchanged over 2009 at over 90 percent.

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