All kinds of criminals seeking to hide illicit money in Switzerland will find it hard to do so now that a law against money laundering has come into force as of April 1, 1998.
The law stipulates that bankers, lawyers, managers and other people involved in cash and property transactions shall inform the authorities about all suspicious financial deals and might freeze bank accounts for five days without notifying their clients.
The data on suspicious deals are to be forwarded to the central "communications bureau" authorized to analyze it and should the suspicions prove grounded the case is to be turned over to law enforcement bodies for an investigation.
Head of the Bureau, 33-year-old Daniel Thjelesclaf, told journalists that if necessary, the term of freezing a bank account under suspicion might be lengthened. The truth might be quickly established by experts authorized access to various computer data banks, including the one possessed by the police.
The law was enacted in the wake of growing influx of "shadow capitals" to Switzerland which enjoys a reputation of a safe place to make bank deposits. According to the federal prosecutor's office, since 1966 until 1977 the number of incidents of money laundering had grown there by 200 percent.
The Swiss authorities are concerned, in particular, over dollars brought by drug dealers from Latin America. The local press is also fond of making speculations on the account of shadow capitals belonging to the so-called Russian Mafia.
The new law envisages tightening control over banks and financial mediators. The control is to be exercised by the federal authorities and different organizations incorporating lawyers and other businessmen involved in the activities of the banking sector.