Morocco drug ring members arrested in France, Switzerland

GENEVA/PARIS, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Authorities in Switzerlandand France have arrested 20 people they say are linked to amulti-million dollar Moroccan drug smuggling network and havefrozen accounts at several banks in Geneva, they said onWednesday.

The family network, thought to be run by Swiss and Frenchcitizens of Moroccan origin, sold cannabis from the NorthAfrican country to France via Spain and laundered the money inSwitzerland, they said.

As part of the operation, Swiss authorities raided a secretsafe tucked behind a wardrobe containing cash and valuablesworth around 3 million Swiss Francs ($3.20 million) as well as

In France, prosecutors said they had seized over a millioneuros in cash, two works of art with a combined value of onemillion euros ($1.29 million), two automatic handguns, and sixgold ingots.

Investigators said the proceeds of the network werechannelled through a complex system of Swiss bank accounts andfake companies and reported that around 12 million euros ($15.48million) were handled between May and October.

"The mechanism allowed for the link between drug traffickingin France and the recycling of earnings in Switzerland to becamouflaged," the Swiss Attorney General's office said in astatement.

Swiss police are also questioning staff at a "long-standingGeneva company" as well as an employee of a large internationalbank based in the Swiss city suspected of assisting with thepayments.

In accordance with Swiss privacy restrictions, it did notname the companies involved.

Switzerland is seeking to widen the powers of its anti-moneylaundering unit and last year identified suspicious asset flowstotalling a record 3 billion Swiss francs.($1 = 0.9387 Swiss francs)($1 = 0.7751 euros)

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomasin Paris; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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