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Swiss Regulator Admonishes Three Banks Over Tunisia Accounts - Reports

Tom Burroughes

22 October 2013

Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority, the regulator, has told HSBC, Union Bancaire Privee and EFG Bank to pay over thousands of Swiss francs for failing to properly supervise accounts of people close to deposed Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, media reports said.

Ali fled in 2011 after public protests led to the end of his rule, which had endured for 23 years.

FINMA declined to comment to WealthBriefing on the specific details of the reports. It referred this publication to a report it has issued, entitled “Due diligence obligations of Swiss banks when handling assets of “politically exposed persons". 

Swiss rules state that banks must be mindful of people in high office or “politically exposed persons” with accounts; such rules are designed to avoid banking money for criminals and money launderers.

Reuters said that FINMA declined to comment on the television report on RTS other than to refer to a 2011 statement that it had opened enforcement proceedings in four cases linked to due diligence of people involved in the Arab Spring uprisings.

RTS said FINMA in April charged HSBC SFr88,000 ($97,600) for costs, installed an external auditor and banned it from opening accounts for PEPs for three years. An HSBC spokesperson declined to comment on the points raised, the news service said.

UBP cited a statement to RTS confirming it had been subject to a FINMA ruling but had not made it public given that the incidents were not very serious and took place nine years ago.

EFG declined to comment on the television report saying that FINMA had last year ordered UBP to pay SFr49,000 and EFG SFr46,000 in costs for the review, the report added.