The Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) said on Thursday that it registered suspicious assets of nearly USD 3.4 billion in 2013.
The number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) fell slightly over the previous year, but the total asset value of these reports remained high.
"MROS received a total of 1,411 SARs from financial intermediaries in 2013. This represents a decrease of 174 SARs over 2012. The decrease is closely connected with the profound political upheaval in several countries, such as the Arab Spring, which led to a marked increase in SARs in previous years," said the MROS in a press release from its headquarter in the Swiss capital, Bern.
The absence of similar events in 2013 therefore resulted in fewer SARs. In comparison with 2012, MROS also dealt with fewer case clusters, that is to say complex cases generating multiple SARs.
With fewer SARs, the Reporting Office had time to analyze each case in greater detail. The SARs that MROS forwarded to prosecution authorities were therefore based on a well-founded suspicion of money laundering. As part of the analysis process, MROS submitted requests for information on around 400 more natural persons and legal entities to foreign financial intelligence units (FIUs) than in the previous year.
As a result of the high quality of these analyses, MROS forwarded 79 percent of all SARs to the prosecution authorities. This is a fall of approximately six percent over the previous year.
Despite lower reporting volume, total asset value remained high at nearly USD 3.4 billion. This sum is in keeping with the previous year. Thirty SARs involved total assets of over USD 11.42 million, which is a threefold increase over 2012. Six SARs involved total assets of nearly USD 1.71 billion or nearly one half of total asset value and involved alleged bribery or suspected snowball schemes. The predicate offences of all these presumed money laundering cases were committed outside of Switzerland.
Fraud was once again the most frequently suspected predicate offence of money laundering. The number of cases involving computer fraud, primarily phishing attempts, rose significantly in 2013. The number of SARs involving terrorist financing increased more than twofold, from 15 in 2012 to 33 in 2013. The reason for this increase was one particularly complex case that generated 25 SARs. The involved total assets of USD 513,000 are moderate though.
On November 1, 2013, the partly revised Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) came into effect. The amendment now authorizes MROS to exchange financial information with foreign FIUs. Another important development made possible by the revised Act is the authority to request information from financial intermediaries mentioned in a SAR submitted by another financial intermediary. Besides the new powers relating to the exchange of information, the revised Act also authorizes MROS to conclude technical co-operation agreements with foreign FIUs.
On December 13, 2013, the Federal Council submitted a draft bill to parliament relating to the implementation of the revised recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In the initial legislative project, the Federal Council originally proposed abolishing voluntary reporting under Article 305ter paragraph 2 Swiss Criminal Code (SCC). However, following consultation with the stakeholders, the Federal Council opted to retain voluntary reporting besides mandatory reporting under Article 9 AMLA. Hence, the distinction between a simple suspicion and a well-founded suspicion of money laundering is to be maintained.
The difference between voluntary and mandatory reporting consists, in particular, in the time limit for processing a SAR. On the request of stakeholders, the Federal Council has proposed a time limit of 30 days for processing mandatory SARs (Article 23 paragraph 5 of the draft). The processing of voluntary SARs submitted under Article 305ter paragraph 2 SCC will not be subject to a time limit, therefore keeping the present system.