Finance Minister, Federal Councillor Kaspar Villiger
Swiss Measures to Fight Terrorism
September 20, 2001
Following the barbaric terrorist attacks on various sites in the USA on 11 September,
the question has arisen at home and abroad of possible connections to Switzerland
and its financial institutions. Many questions have also been raised concerning
Switzerland's possibilities of joining the international fight against terrorism.
I have called you all here today to inform you in as much detail as possible
about the instruments we have at our disposal and about the measures we have
taken since the attacks happened.
Before I deal with these points I should like to make a general remark. The
Federal Council condemns the terrorist attacks in the sharpest terms. It extends
its solidarity and sympathy to the American people and would like to point out
that Switzerland has also been directly affected through the deaths of Swiss
citizens in the attacks. These unimaginable terrorist attacks have deeply shocked
both the American population and the international community. The Federal Council
immediately took all the necessary internal and external measures. We are now
following developments very closely and confirm Switzerland's determination
to help fight international terrorism and its financial backing. The Federal
Council is convinced that increased international cooperation is of the utmost
importance in fighting this terrible problem.
Switzerland will not allow any type of terrorist act to be perpetrated within
its borders or anywhere else. And we are determined to prevent any type of support
being provided for terrorist attacks in other countries from within our land.
2. Tools for fighting terrorism
Switzerland has at its disposal a broad and efficient range of tools for fighting
terrorism, organised crime and money laundering. These tools reflect the great
importance that Switzerland has always accorded to the fight against terrorism.
According to the Swiss penal code membership of as well as support for
criminal organisations (art. 260 ter) and money laundering (art. 305 bis)
is a punishable offence. Any funds used for such purposes will be frozen
and confiscated (art. 59).
According to the law on money laundering which came into effect on 1 April
1998, any financial intermediary who has well founded suspicions of money
laundering or membership of or support for a criminal organisation is obliged
to freeze the corresponding funds immediately and to inform the relevant
authorities at the Federal Department of Justice and Police accordingly
(art. 9). If the suspicions prove justified they will then advise the criminal
The law on legal assistance covers all procedures concerning international
cooperation in criminal matters. This law stipulates that banks are obliged
to provide all information without exception required by judicial authorities
in connection with a criminal investigation (art. 9). They can fully meet
this obligation to provide information on the basis of the world's strictest
``know your customer`` rules. To put it in simple terms, the Swiss banking
secrecy protects neither terrorists nor those who support criminal organisations,
nor indeed any form of criminal activity. In such cases Switzerland provides
immediate legal assistance and freezes the corresponding funds.
As far as concerns official legal assistance, it should be noted that
the corresponding federal and cantonal police departments work closely together
and are regularly in contact with their foreign counterparts.
The statutory order concerning measures to be taken against the Taliban,
dating from 2 October 2000 and last modified on 12 April 2001, provides
for funds to be frozen and money transactions to be blocked. A definitive
list of the 170 or so natural and legal persons affected by these financial
sanctions, indicated by name, is given in Appendix 2 of the statutory order.
With this order, and the list of named persons, the Federal Council has
fully adopted the sanctions laid down by the UN Security Council (Resolutions
1267 and 1333). To date accounts of a number of Afghan banks in Switzerland,
which it must be said have low balances, have been frozen. So far no accounts
have been found under the name of Osama Bin Laden nor of his close colleagues.
Switzerland has signed the most important international agreements concerning
the fight against international terrorism. In particular it has also signed
the UN agreement concerning the funding of terrorism and is urging many other
countries to ratify and implement it as quickly as possible.
3. Measures taken so far
Switzerland is playing an active role in the international debate surrounding
the question of drawing up sanctions more efficiently. As far as concerns targeted
financial sanctions, Switzerland is actually leading the field at present. As
early as 1998 and 1999 two seminars for experts in this domain were organised
in Interlaken in close collaboration with the UN. Switzerland's contributions
towards a better definition and more effective implementation of financial sanctions
have gained international recognition. Switzerland is totally in support of
stricter monitoring by the UN of the way in which sanctions are applied; Switzerland
proposed this idea this summer at an experts' meeting.
Under the overall responsibility and supervision of the federal judiciary, which
opened its own preliminary proceedings against unknown persons last Saturday,
15 September, the Federal Office of Police has set up a TERROR USA Task Force.
This unit is in close contact with the Federal Security Service and the border
police and will coordinate the investigations carried out by the cantonal police
forces. All information that might be relevant in connection with any assets
and financial transactions will be investigated in close cooperation with Swiss
and foreign authorities, including in particular the FBI in Berne, the FBI's
watch-list being taken into account. In the absence of an official request from
the USA for legal assistance in connection with the attacks perpetrated on 11
September, the federal judiciary is carrying out its own investigations, which
have also led to accounts being frozen. It should be emphasised that the banks
are extremely cooperative in providing information which, thanks to the world's
strictest ``know your customer`` rules, is very detailed.
As part of its supervision of the stock exchange, the Banking Commission
as well as other stock exchange monitoring bodies has opened an investigation
into possible insider transactions prior to the terrorist attacks. To date the
measures taken so far and the broad range of efficient tools at our disposal
(the Federal Banking Commission, the Money-Laundering Office, the federal police
and the federal judiciary) have revealed no indication that Osama Bin Laden
and his terrorist organisation have any funds in this country.
It will now have become clear that Switzerland not only has a broad range of
efficient means of fighting terrorism, organised crime and money laundering
at its disposal, but that it is also prepared to put them to use. Switzerland
is definitely not a safe haven for criminals nor terrorists, and the banking
secret provides no protection for such people. The high value that Switzerland
puts on protecting the financial affairs of private individuals applies only
to honest citizens and is immediately put aside in the case of criminal activities.
Switzerland is keen to reinforce the international fight against terrorism,
so that funds used for financing terrorism can be identified and blocked. We
shall continue to implement the corresponding UN resolutions in their entirety.
In this connection we need to destroy the financial foundations of international
crime. Switzerland therefore welcomes the various proposals that have been made,
aimed at ensuring better identification of criminal funds and increasing the
supervision and implementation of financial sanctions within the framework of
the United Nations. At the same time, cooperation with the American authorities
in their investigations into support for the terrorist attacks will be intensified.