MROS registers a total asset value of more than CHF 3 billion

Keywords: Money laundering

Press Release, fedpol, 14.05.2013

Bern. The number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) submitted to the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) in 2012 remained high, at 1,585 reports. Once again, the total asset value of these reports surpassed CHF 3 billion. Although the proportion of SARs forwarded to law enforcement agencies fell over 2011, it remained at the high level of 86 per cent.

Unlike 2011, when profound political upheaval across North Africa and the Middle East triggered numerous SARs and was the main reason for the marked increase in reporting volume that year, 2012 was not characterised by any exceptional political circumstances. Also, there were fewer complex cases generating multiple SARs concerning the same set of facts. Both these factors led to a lower overall reporting volume in absolute terms (-40 SARs) and a lower proportion of forwarded SARs (-5 per cent) in 2012. However, MROS received more SARs concerning individual cases, which meant more suspected criminal activities on the whole.

Total asset value exceeds CHF 3 billion

The total asset value of the 2012 SARs amounted to CHF 3.15 billion and is in keeping with its 2011 level (CHF 3.28 billion). Six SARs alone involved an asset value of CHF 1.44 billion. Of these, three were submitted in connection with the suspected misappropriation of foreign public funds, two in connection with suspected document forgery and fraud, and one concerned an alleged criminal organisation from Asia.

As in the previous years, MROS received most reports in 2012 again from the banking sector. At approximately 66 per cent of total reporting volume, this figure remained unchanged over 2011. In second place was the payment services sector (23 per cent), followed by the categories fiduciary (4 percent) and asset managers (3 per cent). Fraud remained the most frequently suspected predicate offence: this category accounted for nearly one-third of all SARs submitted in 2012.

The number of reports involving terrorist financing increased to 15 SARs in 2012 (+5). Of these 15, only three SARs concerned individual cases, whereas the remaining 12 SARs related to two cases generating six SARs each. The total asset value of these SARs amounted to CHF 7.47 million―considerably more than in 2011 (CHF 150,000). The high figure in 2012 was due to a single complex case that generated CHF 7.45 million. The remaining SARs involved either no assets, or assets of between a few hundred and a few thousand Swiss francs only.

Amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act – MROS to be granted more powers

MROS has played an active part in the amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The amendment aims to strengthen MROS’s powers by allowing it to exchange specific financial information with Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) abroad. The amendment will also allow MROS to obtain financial information from third-party financial intermediaries, providing the requested information relates to a SAR that has already been submitted. The third objective of the amendment is to allow MROS to independently sign technical co-operation agreements (Memorandum of Understanding) with foreign FIUs that require such an agreement in order to work with partner FIUs abroad. The amendments are in Switzerland’s best interests because they will enable MROS to participate fully in the exchange of all available data. This, in turn, will allow MROS to increase the size of its database and raise the quality of its analyses, thereby enhancing Switzerland’s efficiency and credibility in the fight against money laundering. The amendments also address the warning of suspension of Switzerland’s membership of the Egmont Group and anticipate the requirements of the revised recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Federal Council approved the dispatch on the amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act on 27 June 2012 and submitted it to the Federal Assembly. The amendment was approved by the Council of States on 11 December 2012 and by the National Council on 21 March 2013. The procedure on resolving differences was concluded on 2 May 2013, and the final ballot is expected to take place during the summer session of the Federal Assembly.

Implementation of the revised FATF Recommendations

In February 2012, the FATF revised its recommendations on fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. MROS participated in the interdepartmental working group on implementing the revised recommendations, which was headed by the Secretary of State for International Financial Matters. The draft act and its explanatory note are currently in the consultation process. An essential element of the project concerns modifying the system of submitting SARs and therefore relates directly to MROS; it aims to do away with the automatic freezing of assets for five days as provided for by the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and the right to report under the Swiss Criminal Code. Both of these points were criticised by the FATF during its last evaluation of Switzerland.

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