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Swiss flag ‘organised crime’ link in India laundering trail

As Indian government steps up pressure on Switzerland to share information about alleged black money flow, a Swiss government agency has disclosed having come across suspicious money laundering activities related to cases of “organised crime” in India.

The disclosure has been made by the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS), which is part of the Swiss Federal Office of Police. MROS functions as a relay and filtration point between financial intermediaries and the law enforcement agencies.

Under the Swiss Money Laundering Act, MROS receives and analyses Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) in connection with money laundering and, if necessary, forwards them to the law enforcement agencies.

As per MROS’ latest update on developments in the fight against money laundering, organised crime and terrorist financing in Switzerland, as many as 1,411 SARs were received by this central agency during 2013, involving suspicious assets worth a record high amount of nearly 3 billion Swiss francs (over Rs 20,000 crore).

While MROS did not disclose the specific number of India- related cases, it said the number of SARs involving ‘organised crime’ increased to 104 during 2013 — from 97 in the previous year.

In terms of the size of assets involved in these cases, criminal gangs from Italy were on the top, the MROS said, while adding that “further cases of organised crime involved occurrences in China, Brazil and India”.

Switzerland’s central money laundering prevention agency, however, did not divulge any specifics about the cases of organised crime in India. Detailed queries sent to MROS head Stiliano Ordolli remained unanswered in this regard.

MROS data further showed the number of SARs involving terrorist financing has also increased more than two-fold — from 15 in 2012 to 33 in 2013.

During 2013, MROS received inquiries from foreign Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) involving a record high number of 3,061 foreign nationals or entities, with Argentina and USA topping the list with 512 and 321 cases respectively.

Surprisingly, India does not figure on this list of inquiries from foreign FIUs, while other countries included Liechtenstein (279), France (137), Germany (115), UK (104), Spain (96) and Luxembourg (89).

Further, the MROS data does not figure any inquiry related to Indians for over a decade now. The last time the MROS disclosed having received a foreign inquiry about Indians was in the year 2002.

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