The American Swiss Foundation, in collaboration with the Swiss Bankers Association, sponsored a session on “Financial Privacy, Economic Freedom and the War on Terrorism” in New York on Monday.

The event brought together professionals from the banking, financial and business sector, as well as diplomats and scholars, to discuss global efforts to halt terrorist financing and specifically the role Switzerland plays in that charge.

Mr. Juan C. Zarate, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Executive Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, US Treasury Department, addressed the forum. He told participants that the real terrorist threats of the post-September 11 world require the international community to tackle terrorist financing in an aggressive manner, and that the tightening of the international financial net requires the proactive cooperation of not only governments around the world, but also the private sector.

The U.S., armed with critical resources like the USA PATRIOT Act, reportedly can balance the principles of financial privacy with its obligation to obtain, analyze and apply financial information to attack the monetary inroads of terror, as well as better understand how terrorist networks fund themselves.

The DAS said the unrelenting and active participation of the world’s leading financial centers and financial communities – like Switzerland – play a crucial role in countering terror financing. Their cooperation is instrumental in freezing existing assets and prohibiting future funding caches from being funneled through the financial system in support of nefarious acts.

*”Switzerland is an instrumental partner in the financial war on terror and in the protection of the international financial system. It is crucial that we continue to work together and strengthen our relationship to stave off terrorists that corrupt our financial system in support of their deadly schemes,”* Mr. Zarate said.

Speaking with BFSB earlier this month, Acting Director of the Bahamas Financial Intelligence Unit, Edward Smith, spoke to this international cooperation in the fight against terrorism financing. He said the importance of exchanging information for financial intelligence purposes at FIU levels cannot be underestimated. Countering money laundering activities and effectively stopping the flow of illegal proceeds depend to a large extent on timeliness of action. The autonomy of operations enjoyed by FIUs facilitates the process of restraint and confiscation. In essence, says Acting Director Smith, FIUs working together promote the ability to wage this war “at the front”.

The Bahamas Financial Intelligence Unit was established in December 2000, reflecting the jurisdiction’s resolve to maintain its own responsible, independent path against the backdrop of evolving standards for international financial centres.

The Bahamas FIU operates as an autonomous body under the Office of the Attorney General, and has the administrative power to issue an injunction to stop anyone from completing a transaction for a period of up to three days upon receipt of a suspicious transaction report (STR), if it considers such an action to be necessary or appropriate. Upon receipt of a request from the Commissioner of Police or a foreign FIU, a bank account may be frozen for up to five days by the FIU, if it relates to an offence under The Bahamas Proceeds of Crime Act 2000 (POCA), which covers drug trafficking, money laundering and other indictable crimes.

Like other statutory FIUs, the FIU in The Bahamas is empowered to require the production of information it considers necessary for its functions.