16 February 1999
Source: http://www.usia.gov/current/news/latest/99021205.wlt.html?/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

USIS Washington File

12 February 1999


(Calls for account holders to be identified) (600)

Paris -- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental
body set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, expressed "deep
concern" over Austria's failure to eliminate its system of anonymous
passbook savings accounts. It said these accounts "breach the
principles" of FATF recommendations designed to combat money
laundering worldwide.

In a news release February 11, the FATF said it called on Austria two
years ago to take remedial action on anonymous passbook savings
accounts, but that Austrian law still does not require residents to
identify themselves when opening these accounts. The FATF called on
its members to persuade the Austrian government to require that
holders of such accounts be identified.

The FATF has 26 member countries and governments, and is based at the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.
Members have pledged to fight transnational organized crime, fraud,
and money laundering. Current issues include: potential new money
laundering opportunities following the introduction of the euro,
misuse of the Internet for transmission of illicit funds, and the
increasing significance of offshore financial centers to launder
proceeds from illegal activities.

Following is the text of the OECD February 11 release:

(Begin text)


Paris, 11 February, 1999


The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the inter-governmental body
set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, today expressed its deep
concern regarding Austria's failure to take action to eliminate the
anonymous savings "passbook" accounts which are available in Austria.
The anonymous passbook accounts breach the principles laid out in the
FATF 40 Recommendations -- the internationally recognised framework to
combat money laundering.

When Austria joined the FATF more than nine years ago, it committed
itself to implementing the Recommendations. Despite this, and
notwithstanding calls from the FATF two years ago for remedial action,
Austrian law still does not require Austrian residents to identify
themselves when opening an anonymous passbook account or when
conducting large transactions through such an account. At present any
person or legal entity resident in Austria can hold an anonymous
passbook savings account. There are 25 million such accounts for a
population of just over 8 million people.

The FATF is therefore calling on its member governments to persuade
the Government of Austria to put an end to anonymous passbook savings
accounts by requiring the holders of all such accounts, and persons
making large transactions through them, to be identified.

The FATF has also agreed to call on financial institutions to give
special attention, as contemplated in Recommendation 21, to
transactions with bank cheques issued by Austrian banks and
denominated in Austrian schillings, as these funds might be the result
of the closing of anonymous passbook savings accounts. The FATF will
continue to monitor the situation with regard to anonymous passbook
savings accounts.

The 26 member countries and governments of the FATF, whose Secretariat
is based at the OECD, are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, China, Iceland,
Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand,
Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey,
United Kingdom, and the United States. Two international organisations
are also members of the FATF: the European Commission and the Gulf
Co-operation Council.

For further information, please contact OECD Media Relations Division
or the FATF Secretariat, 37 bis Boulevard Suchet, 75016 Paris
(telephone: 331 45 24 79 45 - fax: 331 45 24 17 60).

(End text)