Swiss banks must clamp down on money laundering, the country’s financial watchdog said yesterday, as the Geneva prosecutor opened a criminal probe after the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ document leak showed how offshore companies are used to stash clients’ wealth.
Four decades of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies and has offices in Zurich and Geneva, showed widespread use of those instruments by global banks and triggered worldwide investigations.
“Do I think we are where we should be in fighting misuse in the financial system? No,” Mark Branson chief executive of FINMA, the Swiss financial regulator, said. “We think in some ways the risks in Switzerland have risen, not fallen, and that there is more that can be done. We don’t want to see large scandals involving Swiss banks.”
Switzerland is the biggest international wealth management centre with $2.5tn in assets and has lately taken on more wealth from emerging markets, from which it is harder determine the origin of assets, Mr Branson said.
Branches of Swiss lenders including UBS and Credit Suisse were mentioned in the leaked documents as being among the main banks that requested offshore companies for clients. Both banks deny wrongdoing.
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