Reports of money laundering up 40%
The Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) registered a significant increase in the number of incoming suspicious activity reports (SARs) in 2011. MROS received a total of 1,625 SARs, an increase of 40% over 2010.
The total asset value involved also rose to a record sum of over CHF 3 billion Swiss franc, more than the 2009 and 2010 reporting years together.
MROS received 139 SARs in the wake of political events in spring 2011 across several countries, an exceptional circumstance which did not exist in 2010 and which contributed to the marked increase in SARs in 2011. Also, there was a fourfold increase in the number of SARs from the category of money transmitters, due mainly to the clean-up of accounts by one money transmitter and the subsequent reporting retroactively of numerous suspicious transactions.
As in previous years, there were also several complex cases that generated multiple SARs on account of the large number of business connections involved. A further reason for the increase in reporting volume is the application of more effective control mechanisms by financial intermediaries. As in the previous reporting period, most SARs in 2011 were submitted by the banking sector (1,080 SARs). This category also submitted the highest number of SARs in connection with the aforementioned political events.
The second largest contributor of SARs was the payment services sector, with a share of more than 23% of total reporting volume. Two-thirds of these SARs were submitted by the sub-category of money transmitters. By far the most SARs - nearly one-third - were submitted in connection with suspected fraud as the predicate offence.
The number of SARs with suspected bribery, embezzlement or membership of a criminal organisation as predicate offence increased twofold. Most cases involving suspected connections to a criminal organisation concerned the Italian Mafia. There was also a significant increase in SARs relating to suspected drugs offences.