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An open letter to the CEO of SWIFT on other covert programmes for access to financial data

Dear Mr Schrank,

I am writing with regard to the current controversy over the private arrangement between SWIFT and the U.S. Government that facilitates the extradition of confidential financial transaction data from SWIFT to U.S. authorities. You will be aware that Privacy International contends that this arrangement breaches privacy and data protection law, and we have lodged complaints with regulatory authorities in 38 countries.

In my many discussions with SWIFT officials over the past two weeks I have been repeatedly assured that because SWIFT has a U.S. office, it has no choice but to comply with demands from the U.S. for information. Otherwise, the organisation would be in breach of U.S. law.

You state in your compliance policy: "SWIFT has a history of cooperating in good faith with authorities such as central banks, treasury departments, law enforcement agencies and appropriate international organisations, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in their efforts to combat abuse of the financial system for illegal activities.... Due to the sensitive nature of these contacts, SWIFT does not comment on them."

I am writing to seek clarification of three points:

1) Could you please define "in good faith".

2) You use "contacts" in the plural. How many standing arrangements have been made for the transfer of data and with how many countries?

3) SWIFT has offices in China and Singapore. Do these countries require covert disclosure of financial data in circumstances similar to the U.S. obligation?

Yours sincerely,

Simon Davies


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