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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 09:16 GMT
Swiss banks' terror doubts
Zurich skyline
Swiss banks have cast doubt on whether it is possible to track terrorist funds.

Unlike criminal funds, most terrorist finance is likely to be transferred in small amounts and come from apparently legal sources, such as charities.

This makes it unlikely to arouse any suspicion from bankers, Urs Roth, chief executive of the Swiss Bankers Association told the BBC's World Business Report.

"I would not be able to detect it beforehand in order to prevent the terrorist from being a terrorist and doing an attack," he said.

Finance vow

In the immediate aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks, finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 group of leading industrialised countries vowed to track down terrorist finances.

They wanted better exchange of information and the supervision of offshore assets to ensure there was no hiding place for terrorist money.

The anti-money laundering agency - the Financial Action Task Force - held an emergency meeting to discuss how to track down terrorist funds.

"In the usual case of money laundering, you have basically large transactions," Mr Roth said.

"There a bank can become suspicious.

"In this case here, it is completely different. You probably deal mostly with rather small amounts, which may make perfect sense."

Useful help?

The most useful information a bank can have is that from the government or secret services, he argued.

"I am not sure whether it is very helpful to institute more regular reporting of large transactions," he said.

"Knowing your customer is really the basis for finding out."

"The difficulty here is that... the world has not yet developed those elements which are really the ones that definitely help to detect terrorist money before a terrorist attack is carried out."

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Urs Roth, chief executive, Swiss Bankers Association
"Knowing your customer is really the basis of finding out"
See also:

18 Nov 01 | Business
IMF backs terror funds crackdown
07 Nov 01 | Americas
US blocks Bin Laden money networks
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