By JAMEY KEATEN
BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Switzerland maximum financial penalty on corporations for wrongdoing is just 5 million Swiss francs ($5 million) and that’s “ridiculous,” the new Swiss attorney general said Friday.
Not yet four months into the job, Stefan Blaettler said he wants a more robust legal arsenal to fight white-collar crime with tools akin to what his counterparts in “Anglo-Saxon” countries possess in order to push back against financial malfeasance that has often blighted Switzerland’s banking and business image.
In an interview on the sidelines of his first press conference as attorney general, Blaettler laid out his ambitions to fight money laundering, terrorism and corruption through Switzerland and to contribute to international efforts for justice in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last month, his office announced the creation of a “task force” that will interview refugees and help work with international and European prosecutors.
A former Bern police chief, 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’,” said Blaettler, 62. “That’s a third of the pay of a manager.”
Speaking in English, Blaettler 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 ten years’.”
“We do not have this possibility, and to convince parliament will be a hard job.”
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” like lawyers who set up and administer huge funds in Switzerland, largely outside of any strict legal boundaries.
“Reputation means business,” said Blaettler. “And this country wants to make (do) business, but we want to make to be 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.
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