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  • Writer's pictureInchmead

Switzerland plans register of business owners

The Swiss government has outlined proposals to tighten up anti money laundering rules and create a government register of business ownership

The Swiss Ministry of Finance has outlined plans to crack down on money laundering and stem the flow of illicit finance, with some rules affecting the way lawyers and accountants operate.

‘The aim is to reinforce the integrity and competitiveness of Switzerland as a financial and business location with a federal register of beneficial owners, due diligence for particularly risky activities in legal professions, as well as other provisions. The measures are in line with international standards,’ said Karin Keller-Sutter, finance minister.

‘Legal entities in particular are abused worldwide by criminals and organised crime to conceal assets and enable money laundering and tax evasion.’

It is understood that the plans are set to include tougher rules for accountants and lawyers, particularly related to registration of companies and due diligence anti-money laundering regulations.

There will also be closer scrutiny of real estate transactions which are viewed as ‘particularly risky’.

A new federal register will require companies, partnerships and other legal entities based in Switzerland to register their beneficial ownership details.

Any third party with at least a 25% stake in the business will have to be included on the register. The new register is likely to affect up to 500,000 businesses, subsidiaries of foreign companies, clubs, foundations and cooperatives.

The register would not be available for public view due to Swiss data protection rules but the register can be used by financial intermediaries as well advisors who are subject to the anti money laundering regulations to fulfil due diligence regarding their clients.

It will be managed by the Federal Department of Justice and Police. There will be sanctions for non-compliance issued by the Ministry of Finance.

Other measures include strict checks on all cash transactions related to property sales, which must undergo full due diligence checks regardless of the value.

There will also be a reduction in the limit for cash purchases of precious metals including gold, to CHF15,000 Swiss francs (£13,500), from the current CHF100,000.

The rules, which will be in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are likely to come into effect in 2024 with a detailed consultation set to close on 29 November.

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