Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 March, 2022 at 10:06 am by Andre Camilleri
In his input to a European Parliament’s plenary debate on the fight against money laundering in third countries following the ‘Suisse Secrets’ affair, Labour MEP Alfred Sant proposed that one solution to counter money laundering would be the registration of non-European beneficial owners in European Union registers. He said that these registers would implement harmonized rules at European level to present information in real time.
Switzerland came under the spotlight after a massive leak by an anonymous whistleblower revealed that the second-largest lender in the country and one of the world’s biggest private banks, Credit Suisse, provided a service to ‘high-risk’ individuals including money launderers, war criminals, autocrats, and drug dealers.
Former Prime Minister Sant emphasized that there are still weaknesses in the European Union anti-money laundering framework. He added that while scandals have already forced many changes for the better, over-reliance on them to stimulate reforms politicises unduly anti-money laundering initiatives.
He stated that the threats posed by third countries, in-particular those with close ties to the European Union like Switzerland, endanger the overall integrity of the European Union’s financial system. Sant noted that as anti-money laundering practices are increasingly toughened in Europe, interested parties seek to circumvent the system by using third country channels.
Like what happened with Tunisia, Switzerland could be placed on the blacklist of “countries at risk” for money laundering and this could prompt changes in the country’s anti-money laundering mechanisms and lead to deeper reforms. However, Sant warned that such blacklisting decisions are highly political.
In conclusion, Sant acknowledged that while blacklisting to counter money laundering has its strong points, truly effective solutions to money laundering should be more proactive and objective in nature.