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Swiss target money-laundering bids

GENEVA — Unpaid fees lead to safe deposit caches of suspicious paintings and expensive jewelry. A foreign client’s offshore deposits turn up possibly forged documents from the sale of tanks and high-caliber weapons to an African defense ministry.

They were among more than 1,500 suspected money-laundering cases that Swiss authorities disrupted last year, including 15 linked to terrorist financing, officials said.

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In all, there were 1,585 “suspicious activity reports’’ for 2012 involving $3.3 billion. Just six of the reports accounted for almost half the money. The past two years have seen an almost 50 percent jump in the number of cases compared with previous years.

Two-thirds of the cases were linked to banking, and more than 200 cases involved more than $104,000.

Switzerland has in recent years tried to shed its image as a haven for money laundering and tax evasion through the misuse of its vaunted banking secrecy. Authorities have set up police units and task forces to crack down on fraud, bribery, and other financial crimes and to hunt for so-called dictator assets. The government also has signed deals with other nations to provide greater assistance to foreign tax authorities seeking information on their citizens’ accounts.

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