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France 2 : journal 20h
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France 2 February 21, 2001
Olivier Carow

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RETRANSCRIPTION OF THE REPORT (also available in Real Video)
An official report from a special national assembly fact-finding mission on money laundering was released today. Switzerland found itself accused in this report. According to members of parliament, Switzerland only fights a very superficial battle with, I quote, very limited funds. In reality, it is true that financial institutions in Switzerland spare no expense to attract funds. Olivier Carow and Delphine Detrie investigate.

The address is well known to financial insiders. In Lausanne it is easy to find someone to help you open a Swiss bank account. You just need to go to the city's most beautiful hotel. In the building just opposite, someone is waiting for you:

Mr. Micheloud:

 ”Hello and welcome”

Nicknamed a headhunter of the rich, he acts as a go-between between foreign clients and local bankers. Your money interests him, but you will first need to convince him. You must come from a well-known country, have resources, of course, and be able to justify their source. If he believes you, as his Web site promises, Switzerland is yours. With all of its very discreet numbered bank accounts and trust companies.

 

Mr. Micheloud:  “A client may lie and, in certain cases, may end up being accepted by a bank. Touch on wood, this has never happened to us, but let’s say that it could. Now, once the client is accepted by the bank, you mustn’t think he or she is a dishonest client, a crook, or a mobster who has money to be laundered; once he or she has been accepted by the bank, the game is not over.”

The game is the anti-money laundering law that was passed two years ago. It requires that any suspicious client be reported. Some, such as a certain lawyer, find that it is already too harsh. His clients include Silvio Berlusconi, Omar Bongo and Pavel Borodine, the “heir” to the Kremlin, so many of the names that have been implicated in money laundering or corruption.

Mr. Poncet::  “If I were a criminal, the only country in the world where I would not invest my money no matter what would be in Switzerland!”
Reporter: ”Why?”
Mr. Poncet: “Because the way the Swiss system was designed, the way the law is written, how it is applied and how the bankers apply it to themselves is such that criminals have a million other better opportunities to launder their money in New York or London instead of in Geneva.”

Geneva’s prosecutor would like to believe that is the truth, but unfortunately, financial intermediaries are not very cooperative.

Mr. Bernard Bertossa 

“Very often intermediaries let themselves get involved in operations that obviously intend to conceal the real economic situation, but underneath this pretext they are promoting tax evasion.”

We estimate that will take at least three years to clean up the financial market place completely.

This report was made for the Eight o’clock news at France 2, the number one public service announcement channel in France.


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