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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swiss See Russian Mafia Cash Filtering Into Local Economy

GENEVA -- Russian criminal money in Swiss banks has topped $40 billion and has started to filter into the local economy, Switzerland's federal prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said Thursday.

Russian mafia cash is suspected of being behind acquisitions of property including restaurants, shops and boutiques in Switzerland as part of a process of laundering tainted money, del Ponte added.

"We are worried by the penetration of our country's economy by dirty Russian money. We have to be extremely careful so it does not become a security threat to the Swiss state," she said at a meeting with journalists in Geneva.

She said she plans to visit Russia in April to seek closer cooperation with Russian prosecutors.

Del Ponte, whose office is also in charge of Switzerland's security services, said she had no evidence that the tentacles of the Russian mafia had reached major Swiss firms.

"Members of different criminal organizations are based here," she added. "The big danger for Switzerland is the infiltration of our economy by dirty money."

Del Ponte conceded that banks in Switzerland are used as a conduit for criminal cash.

Yet statistics from the prosecutor's office show that banks in Geneva, Switzerland's secretive banking haven for the super-rich, had reported only 40 suspected cases of money-laundering since 1995.

There are no global statistics on the volume of dirty money, but the world's total illegal drugs trade alone is estimated to be worth some $400 billion, according to a recent United Nations report.