Liechtenstein - Banking and securities

Although there is a national bank, the duties of the central bank are performed by the Swiss National Bank, a consequence of the currency union with Switzerland. Liechtenstein's banks form an important part of the economy, and they have experienced significant growth in the 1990s. An estimated 4% of the work force was employed by the banking sector in the 1990s.

The National Bank of Liechtenstein (Liechtensteinische Landesbank), founded in 1861, is the state bank of issue; in addition, it deals in real estate mortgages and ordinary banking operations. Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT), the country's biggest financial institution (owned by the royal family), and the Private Trust Bank Corp., founded in 1956, play an important role in the finance and credit spheres of Liechtenstein's economy. Banking is linked with the Swiss banking system, as is securities trading. In 1945, Liechtenstein's banks had a combined balance sheet of SwFr 38 million; in 2003, it was SwFr 120 billion, an astonishing SwFr3.6 million for every person in the country. Net income from Liechtenstein's banks totaled SwFr 232.5 million in 1996, and contributed over 12% to the country's national income in terms of taxes and dividends paid.

Because of Liechtenstein's strict bank secrecy, several thousand foreign businesses are nominally headquartered there. The secrecy laws are, however, waived in the case of criminal intent. There are at present no restrictions on foreign investors' access to financing in Liechtenstein. New laws to combat insider trading and money laundering have recently tightened fiduciary regulations.

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