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Switzerland Lends Support To Liechtenstein Over Money Laundering

Ulrika Lomas, Tax-news.com, Brussels

22 November 2000


Last week Tax-news.com reported that Austria has lent its support to Liechtenstein, one of the fifteen countries slammed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as money laundering hotspots. A Liechtenstein delegation led by Head of Government Mario Frick recently travelled to Vienna for discussions with Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, the upshot of which was a consensus that banking secrecy should not be the focus of international eyes. Now Switzerland has joined the club, with Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger and Mr Frick agreeing that banking secrecy and tax issues must be separated.

Meeting in Vaduz last week, Mr Villiger and Mr Frick underlined their common attitude on the issue of banking secrecy. The Swiss Finance Minister confirmed that Switzerland would support a fair treatment of Liechtenstein in connection with the FATF. Mr Frick told the "Liechtenstein Vaterland" newspaper afterwards: 'We both consider that banking secrecy serves the protection of privacy.' According to Mr Frick, the talks, which focused on issues connected to banking secrecy and international tax developments, took place in a "very friendly atmosphere". Whilst he admits that international efforts at preventing tax evasion have to be co-ordinated, he says that in his opinion, it is not necessary to undermine banking secrecy to achieve this aim.

It seems that Liechtenstein may finally be on its way to restoring its reputation, having been blighted in recent months by numerous allegations that the tiny principality is a haven for money launderers. Whilst the FATF has said that it will not consider removing any of the blacklisted jurisdictions from its list until the beginning of 2001 at the earliest, the head of the FATF last week acknowledged Liechtenstein's efforts in improving its counter-money laundering measures.

The FATF has said that it intends to remove Liechtenstein from the black list only after having judged all new laws and their implementation. At a meeting in Madrid, Liechtenstein's Minister of Justice, Heinz Frommelt, reiterated the principality's efforts and measures taken to improve implentation of the law to FATF Chairman and General Director of the Spanish National Bank, José Maria Roldan Alegre. In turn, José Maria Roldan explained the procedures Liechtenstein is required to follow to qualify for de-listing and he explicitly acknowledged Liechtenstein's efforts in fighting international organised crime.

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