Swiss bank lobby bids to reassure on asset seizure
Protect investors rather than accuse them - bank group; Some wealthy Middle East clients scared off; Switzerland aggressive in freezing assets; Law under discussion to protect investors
September 6, 2011 10:11 by Reuters
The Swiss Bankers Association is working with the government to give investors more legal certainty over asset seizure after some were alarmed by Swiss moves to freeze the accounts of ousted dictators, its head said on Monday.
“Switzerland has no interest whatsoever to have the wrong monies invested within its borders,” Swiss Bankers Association head Patrick Odier told a news conference.
“But Switzerland has all the interest in making sure that Middle East or any other type of investors will find in Switzerland the state of law that protects them before accusing them,” he said.
In March, wealth managers said London is gaining in the battle for rich Middle Eastern families seeking shelter from political unrest at home, as its private banks and top end property sector tempt them away from Switzerland.
“Switzerland wants to continue to attract these important countries where wealth creation is at its most,” Odier said.
Keen to clean up its image as a haven for ill-gotten gains, Switzerland has in recent years frozen the assets of numerous deposed leaders including the former rulers and their entourages of Tunisia, Egypt and Ivory Coast.
In its annual report published on Monday, the Swiss Bankers Association said the government’s moves had resulted in a degree of legal uncertainty among investors and said better coordination and communication were needed.
The group is working with the Swiss government to draft a formal legal basis for blocking such assets to replace the emergency legislation used in the past.
“We are in discussion with government to develop a law that will protect investors,” Odier said. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)