The Swiss government launched consultation proceedings on a series of reforms designed to combat money laundering and terrorist financing occurring within the country’s financial system.
The changes, announced Aug. 30, would strengthen the existing Swiss anti-money laundering (AML) framework to account for the registering of beneficial ownership information, due diligence for consultancy activities and legal work, and cash payments in certain transactions. The consultation is being led by the Swiss Federal Council.
Feedback must be submitted by Nov. 29.
Switzerland, long considered a country with a reputation for bank secrecy, is aiming to get in line with the international standards of the Financial Action Task Force by enacting the changes, according to the Federal Council.
“[I]ncreased transparency should allow the prosecution authorities to identify who is really behind a legal structure with greater speed and certainty,” said the council in its press release.
The beneficial ownership requirements would seek to provide transparency by requiring companies to report on their owners to a federal registry. The register would be nonpublic, managed by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, and audited by the Federal Department of Finance. Simplified reporting procedures would be available for certain entities to avoid costly compliance burdens.
The second significant change would be the application of AML due diligence rules to consulting activities. The council specifically singled out the provision of legal advice as carrying elevated risk of money laundering, most notably regarding real estate transactions.
Other changes include lowering the threshold for cash payments in precious metals trading from 100,000 Swiss francs to CHF 15,000 and requiring all cash payments in real estate be subject to AML due diligence rules, regardless of value.
In response to previous scandals, commentators have called for the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to have tougher investigatory and enforcement powers. FINMA late last month published new guidance to improve banks’ money laundering risk analysis after repeatedly identifying shortcomings during supervisory reviews.