Switzerland’s top lawyer seeks tools to curb financial crime

Apr 29, 2022, 8:04 AM | Updated: 12:31 pm
Switzerland's new attorney general, Stefan Blaettler, arrives for a news conference in Bern, Switze...

Switzerland's new attorney general, Stefan Blaettler, arrives for a news conference in Bern, Switzerland, Friday, April 29, 2022. Switzerland's new attorney general is pushing parliament to give his office more tools to fight white-collar crime. Stefan Blaettler wants a more robust legal arsenal to fight white-collar crime and say more tools like his counterparts in “Anglo-Saxon” countries have to better fight financial malfeasance that has often blighted the image of Switzerland’s financial and business worlds. (Alessandro della Valle/Keystone via AP)

(Alessandro della Valle/Keystone via AP)

BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Switzerland’s new attorney general is pushing parliament to give his office more tools to fight white-collar crime.

The country’s maximum financial penalty on corporations for wrongdoing is just 5 million Swiss francs ($5 million), and that’s “ridiculous,” Stefan Blaettler said Friday in an interview on the sidelines of his first press conference as attorney general.

Not yet four months into the job, the former police chief of Bern laid out his ambitions to fight money laundering, terrorism and corruption in Switzerland and to contribute to international justice efforts in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Blaettler said it’s been an uphill battle to convince Swiss lawmakers to adopt tougher penalties for wrongdoers.

“This week, I was in parliament and told them, ‘You know what you are doing? You can condemn (convict) a bank — a global working bank — and the maximum fine is five million? It’s ridiculous’,” he said. “That’s a third of the pay of a manager.”

Speaking in English, Blaettler, 62, said he’d like the legal means afforded to counterparts in countries like the U.S. and Britain to spell out to corporations that “‘if ever you want to continue your activity, this is the fine, and these are the rules for the coming 10 years’.”

Blaettler also alluded to what anti-corruption groups have decried as an abortive effort in parliament last year to tighten the rules governing the activities of “third parties,” such as lawyers who set up and administer huge funds in Switzerland, largely outside of any strict legal boundaries.

He said Switzerland’s image was at stake.

“Reputation means business,” said Blaettler. “And this country wants to make (do) business, but we want to make sure that the business is correct … (and) plays by the rules.”

“But give us also the instruments which give us the possibility to combat those who won’t play by the rules,” he said.

As for the war in Ukraine, Blaettler’s office last month announced the creation of a task force charged with interviewing Ukrainian refugees and working with international and European prosecutors.

The attorney general said Friday he had a “duty” to help gather information from refugees and to build case files that could be used to bring to justice any war criminals who might come to Switzerland.

“I’m interested in the second, the third level,” Blaettler said. “Every army commander who launches the missiles against the churches and schools and hospitals is a potential war criminal. So as a potential war criminal, that means if he sets foot in Switzerland, we will start an inquiry.”

The Swiss government, straying somewhat from its long-touted neutrality, has lined up with European Union sanctions against Russian oligarchs, political elites, and companies.

The Swiss Bankers Association has estimated that the assets of Russian clients deposited in Swizerland’s banks total 150-200 billion Swiss francs (about $160-$215 billion), making the country a key repository of Russian money abroad.

Blaettler said his office is gearing up to work with Eurojust, an EU agency that works to fight crime, and the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has launched a probe into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

His office has suspended legal cooperation with Russian counterparts, but Swiss authorities have been in contact with Ukrainian law enforcement, notably police.

Swiss federal prosecutors have been in touch with Ukrainian counterparts only “indirectly” so far, through Eurojust, Blaettler said.

“They are struggling for survival,” he said. “They are not struggling for getting back $100 million now. That will come.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A motorist fills up the tank on a sedan, on July 22, 2022, in Saratoga, Wyo. Falling gas pri...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Mixed US inflation signs. Where are prices going?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers struggling with skyrocketing prices for food, gas, autos and rent got a tantalizing hint of relief last month, when prices didn’t budge at all from June after 25 straight months of increases. With gas prices continuing to fall, inflation is probably slowing further this month. So has the worst bout of […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Axon, Trade Desk rise; Alcon, Rackspace fall

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that traded heavily or had substantial price changes Wednesday: Alcon Inc., down $3.53 to $71.94. The eye care company trimmed its profit and revenue forecasts for the year. Trade Desk Inc., up $19.74 to $74.24. The digital-advertising platform operator gave investors an encouraging revenue forecast. Akamai Technologies Inc., up 91 […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Iowa motorist accused of hitting abortion rights protester

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man faces two criminal charges accusing him of driving his vehicle through a group of abortion rights protestors in Cedar Rapids in June and striking a woman before driving away, court documents posted online Wednesday said. David Alan Huston, 53, of Swisher, is charged with assault with a […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Fencing organization, coach sued over alleged sex abuse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal lawsuit says USA Fencing, the national governing body for the sport, failed to protect a Tennessee teenager from sexual abuse over a two-year period. The girl and her parents filed suit last month against the Colorado-based organization as well as her former coach, Robert Piraino, and the Nashville business […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge: Walgreens contributed to San Francisco opioid crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Walgreens can be held responsible for contributing to San Francisco’s opioid crisis for over-dispensing opioids for years without proper oversight and failing to identify and report suspicious orders as required by law. San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said the pharmacy chain “continually violated what […]
14 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Switzerland’s top lawyer seeks tools to curb financial crime