Swiss say saw record suspect money flows in

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* Over 3 billion francs probed in 2011* Suspicious activity reports jump to 1,625ZURICH May 14 Suspicious asset flows identified by Swiss authorities reached a record high of more than 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.21 billion) in 2011, lifted in part by wealthy North Africans who sought to move assets into the country as the Arab Spring raged. Keen to clean up its image as a haven for ill-gotten funds, Switzerland has in recent years enacted strict laws on money-laundering. It has also frozen the assets of deposed leaders including the former rulers and their entourages of Tunisia, Egypt and Ivory Coast. The 2011 total was more than those of the two previous years combined, while suspicious activity reports (SARs) were up by 40 percent, the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) said on Monday."The increase is mainly due to one complex case that generated numerous SARs from various financial intermediaries," MROS, a Swiss federal body, said in a statement. The case involved online investments and a number of businesses related to online gaming, a spokesman said.

"A further striking aspect is that just 25 SARs generated a total asset value of over 2.2 billion Swiss francs, including 7 SARs involving a total asset volume of 791 million francs and related to cases of suspected corruption."There were some 139 reports of suspicious movements in the wake of political events across several countries in early 2011, MROS said, calling this "an exceptional circumstance which did not exist in 2010". A spokesman for MROS confirmed these asset transfers were related to the political turmoil which swept North Africa known as the Arab Spring, which led to the ousting of political leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Of the more than 1,600 suspicious activity reports, or SARs, 1,100 were submitted by the banking sector, long famed for its secrecy but under intense pressure from Swiss and foreign authorities to ensure clients' money is clean. One third of all reports concerned cases of suspected fraud, MROS said, while reports concerning suspected bribery, embezzlement or membership of a criminal body - the latter usually meaning the Italian Mafia - doubled. The proportion of reports ultimately forwarded to law enforcement authorities climbed to more than 90 percent for the first time in 10 years, MROS said. The body did not provide data on the proportion of convictions to reports in previous years.

Swiss banking secrecy has come under renewed pressure in recent years, forcing Switzerland to relax its banking laws in certain areas and pledge to pursue tax evasion as well as outright fraud. Switzerland is currently grappling with a U.S. crackdown on wealthy Americans hiding funds from the Internal Revenue Service after U.S. prosecutors indicted Swiss private bank Wegelin over allegations it had helped hide money. Banks including Credit Suisse and the largest unlisted private bank Pictet have handed over account details to U.S. authorities amid an ongoing tax dispute that almost felled larger rival UBS, which in 2009 paid a $780 million fine to avert prosecution. Switzerland is also seeking to head off European Union pressure to make its banking system more transparent with a series of withholding tax deals and lump-sum payments.