Switzerland Amends Banking Law To Expose Illicit Accounts

Channels Television  
Updated December 11, 2012

The Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria, Hans-Rudolf Hodel on Tuesday said his country has amended its bank secrecy laws making it more legally responsible to disclose suspicious funds lodged in the country’s financial institutions.

Mr Hodel, who was speaking at a seminar in Abuja on money laundering and terrorism in West Africa, said with the rise in the financing of global terrorism, individuals and groups can no longer loot money and dump in Swiss accounts without fear of discovery as the authorities are now authorised to raise alerts on suspicious transactions.

“We still have a bank secrecy law but it is very relative because as soon as there are suspicions of illicit fund be it for trafficking, terrorism or whatever criminal act, the bank secrecy is lifted and the accounts are seized,” the Ambassador said.

Mr Hodel said Switzerland is currently engaged in activities that will strengthen regional capacity and cooperation in dealing with the financing of terrorist groups.

Other experts present at the event pointed out that the quickest way to kill terrorism is to cut off its life source which is funding.

Bank secrecy is a legal principle under which banks are not allowed to provide to authorities personal and account information about their customers unless certain conditions apply (for example, a criminal complaint has been filed).

Created by the Swiss Banking Act of 1934, which led to the famous Swiss bank, the principle of bank secrecy is always considered one of the main aspects of private banking. It has also been accused by civil society organisations and governments of being one of the main instruments of underground economy and organized crime.

Former bank employees from banks in Switzerland (UBS, Julius Baer) and Liechtenstein (LGT Group) have testified that their former institutions helped clients evade billions of dollars in taxes by routing money through offshore havens in the Caribbean and Switzerland. One of these, Rudolf Elmer, wrote in the New York Times, “It is a global problem…Offshore tax evasion is the biggest theft among societies and neighbour states in this world.”

The Swiss Parliament ratified on June 17, 2010 an agreement between the Swiss and the United States governments allowing UBS to transmit to the US authorities information concerning 4,450 American clients of UBS suspected of tax evasion.