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The Federal Council approves a new dispatch aimed at enhancing anti-money laundering

20 May 2024 | Legal Alerts
On May 22, 2024, the Federal Council approved a dispatch for the further development of the anti-money laundering framework, which will be presented to Parliament. This initiative aims to enhance the integrity and competitiveness of Switzerland as a financial and business hub through the establishment of a federal register of beneficial owners and the implementation of due diligence requirements for peculiarly high-risk activities in the legal profession, among other measures. These actions align with international standards.
A robust system for preventing financial crime is crucial for maintaining the good reputation and success of a globally significant, secure, and forward-looking financial center and business location. Money laundering and terrorist financing severely threaten the integrity of the financial system. Worldwide, legal entities and trusts are exploited for money laundering, terrorist financing, and corruption, or to evade sanctions. This is particularly evident from the current difficulties in enforcing international sanctions against Russia. As a prominent financial hub, Switzerland faces these risks as well. Consequently, to address ongoing developments in this area, the Federal Council is proposing enhancements to the existing anti-money laundering system.
The Federal Council approves a new dispatch aimed at enhancing anti-money laundering
The main components of the bill are:
  • A federal transparency register will be established for Swiss companies and legal entities to list their beneficial owners. The new Federal Act simplifies registration for associations, foundations, sole proprietorships, and limited liability companies. This register aims to help law enforcement identify true owners to prevent money laundering and asset concealment. Managed by the FDJP (the Federal Department of Justice and Police), it uses existing commercial register infrastructure. The register will not be public. Compared to the draft, data collection is simplified, alignment with anti-money laundering laws is enhanced, and data protection is improved.
  • Anti-money laundering due diligence rules will now apply to high-risk advisory activities, particularly legal advice. This includes structuring companies or real estate transactions. Specific regulations respect lawyers' and notaries' professional secrecy. Based on consultation feedback, the responsibility for supervising these obligations will lie with self-regulatory organizations (SROs) under money laundering legislation, not regional bar associations.
  • Additional measures to strengthen the anti-money laundering framework include preventing breaches of embargo legislation and requiring due diligence for cash payments over CHF 15,000 in precious metals trading and any amount in real estate transactions. Due to consultation feedback, the proposed reform of the SRO sanctions system will not be pursued.
The draft legislation, discussed during the consultation period from August to November 2023, was mostly well-received. However, the professions impacted by the new rules on advisory activities expressed some skepticism.

The bill will now be submitted to Parliament and is anticipated to take effect no earlier than the beginning of 2026. These measures comply with the international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on combating money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the suggestions of the Global Forum.
The Federal Council approves a new dispatch aimed at enhancing anti-money laundering
How will the legislative amendment impact small and medium-sized enterprises?
All companies and legal entities in Switzerland must enter their beneficial owners in the federal transparency register. A simplified procedure applies to sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, foundations, and associations if their beneficial owners are already in the commercial register. An external regulatory impact assessment indicates the new regulations will slightly increase the burden, with most companies needing about 20 minutes of work in the first year and only a few minutes in subsequent years.

1. https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-101100.html
2. https://www.fatf-gafi.org/en/home.html
3. https://www.newsd.admin.ch/newsd/message/attachments/82295.pdf


This legal alert provides a general overview of the topic and should not be considered legal advice. Legal situations may vary, and businesses should consult with legal professionals to address their specific concerns.
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