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Combating money laundering: financial intermediaries must comply with due diligence requirements

July 23, 2020 |Financial News

Combating money laundering: financial intermediaries must comply with due diligence requirements

Financial intermediaries must adhere to strict due diligence and reporting requirements. Both the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA and the self-regulatory organizations have the aim of preventing money laundering. This is an important contribution to a credible and functional financial system.

Money laundering means obscuring the origin of criminal assets in such a way that it becomes impossible to find the funds or to determine their origin. Combating money laundering is intended to prevent criminal assets from entering the legal financial cycle.
Supervision performed by FINMA and the self-regulatory organisations
Swiss regulation on money laundering rests on two pillars: money laundering is a criminal offense on the one hand and is punished by the criminal authorities. On the other hand, the Money Laundering Act requires financial intermediaries to comply with due diligence and reporting requirements in their customer transactions. This is where FINMA comes into play: for banks, securities firms, insurance companies and institutions under the Collective Investment Schemes Act, FINMA directly monitors compliance with these obligations as part of regular supervision.

Individuals and companies in the parabank sector are also subject to money laundering legislation. The prerequisite is that they professionally accept or keep foreign assets or that they help to invest or transfer them. This group needs to be monitored following the due diligence and reporting requirements of a self-regulatory organization (SRO) that is approved and monitored by FINMA. SROs need to monitor whether their members comply with money laundering obligations. The audit companies mainly carry out the specific audit.
Combating money laundering
Financial intermediaries fulfil their obligations
Due diligence and reporting obligations include in particular the following elements:

- A financial intermediary may not accept assets that are recognizably crimes. It must have no business with any person or company related to terrorist financing or criminal organizations.

- Financial intermediaries must preventively identify the contracting party and determine the beneficial owners of the assets brought in.

- In case when business relationships or transaction appear unusual, or when there is evidence that the assets stem from a crime, that they are under the control of a criminal organization, or that they are used to finance terrorism, the financial intermediary must clarify the economic background and purpose.

- Business relationships and transactions with increased risks must be recorded and more precise clarifications must be carried out. This can be, for example, business relationships with customers from high-risk countries or with politically exposed persons. Other criteria that indicate increased risks include the amount of assets deposited, the amount of inflows and outflows, the type of services or products requested or the country of origin or destination of frequent payments.

- The transactions and clarifications made are to be documented.

- Financial intermediaries must take the organizational measures necessary to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. This includes, in particular, controls, the issuing of internal instructions and the training of staff.

- In case money laundering is suspected in a business relationship, the financial intermediary must report to the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP).
FINMA-imposed measures
If FINMA receives information that the provisions of the Money Laundering Act have been violated, it intervenes. It ensures that the financial intermediaries it supervises make every effort to ensure that the regulations are complied with. In the event of serious cases, FINMA can take measures and restore the legal status, arrange for special audits, initiate enforcement proceedings and confiscate the fallible institution's profits.
Source: https://www.finma.ch/en/supervision/cross-sector-issues/combating-money-laundering/

Legal disclaimer. This article does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The article should be used for informational purposes only.
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