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Swiss Banks Get Police Tips on How to Spot Hamas Financing

Swiss Banks Get Police Tips on How to Spot Hamas Financing
A cyclist passes a Swiss national flag on a bridge in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. While the Swiss city has largely recovered from the end of secrecy at financial institutions, which shrank the number of banks there by a quarter since 2005, it faces questions about its allure for international businesses and the world’s wealthy.

Swiss police sent a tip-sheet to banks and asset managers on how to spot suspicious payments directed to Hamas.

Such payments are “often carried out under the guise of fundraising campaigns for humanitarian aid,” Switzerland’s Money Laundering Reporting Office, a unit of the federal police, said in the letter seen by Bloomberg, which is dated Nov. 3.Last month, Switzerland’s top prosecutor announced the start of a criminal investigation into alleged payments to Hamas.The group isn’t labeled as a terrorist organization in Switzerland, unlike in the US and in the European Union. After the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,400 people, both the Swiss government and parliament have signaled that they want to change this. But the process will likely take months and the approval of a new law.

The terrorist label would make it more difficult for the group to collect and route funds through the country.

Hamas can theoretically open bank accounts in Switzerland, finance and law expert Mark Pieth told Bloomberg in October. There are smaller banks specialized on Islamic banking with branches in the country that might offer services to organizations such as Hamas, he said at the time.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said in October that the government was confident that Hamas was not using the country’s banks for its financing.

Specifically, the police letter cites three potential sources of money for the group:

  • direct fundraising by Hamas
  • fundraising by non-profit organizations
  • fundraising by individuals connected or sympathizing with Hamas

Those involved might use a variety of means for payments, “including bank and electronic transfers, credit cards, advanced payment means and cryptocurrency,” it added.

Cryptos, Social Media

In a list of possible indicators, the police said that social media requests to send funds via cryptocurrencies should be cause for suspicion, along with the appearance of the term “Jihad” or the names of martyrs as recipients of transfers.

The letter was sent to all financial institutions enabled to report potential money laundering cases, and to industry groups, a spokesperson for the federal police told Bloomberg. Public broadcaster SRF initially reported about the letter.

The Swiss banking association said the letter was a “suitable tool that supports banks in better identifying suspicious transactions.”

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