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No self-respecting big-money criminal would stash his loot in anything but a legendarily secretive Swiss bank account. In the hands of particularly lazy thriller writers, merely possessing a Swiss bank account is proof positive that a person is up to no good.
In real life, the usefulness of these numbered accounts is limited, due to how hard it is to get one nowadays... The Swiss, well aware of their banks' increasing reputation as havens for no-good-niks (not particularly helped by their willingness to stash Nazi Gold, though they were originally formed to help people hide money from the Gestapo), require numerous references and a general OK from the person's country of origin.
To be noted: truly anonymous bank accounts are a thing of fiction. Even if protected by a code number, the identity of the client (and usually the source of the funds as well) is known by the chairman and high-ranking personnel of the bank, either in Switzerland or other tax havens. Money laundering and stashing of dubious funds are the province of professional accountants and economists, who know how to give a decent face to the business they manage. Don't try to just approach a bank with a Briefcase Full of Money and no plausible story and expect it to work.
In more recent stories, an account in an offshore tax haven, such as the Cayman Islands, may be substituted.
Anime & Manga
- Golgo 13: A Smug Snake villain figures out how to use the very existence of the assassin's Swiss bank accounts and the fantastic sum that must be in them to run an international scam.
- In the Tintin adventure Flight 714, there is an amoral corporate executive who is abducted so the villain can obtain the details of his Swiss bank account.
- In Asterix in Switzerland, Petitsuix opens a Helvetian bank account and stashes Asterix and Obelix in a safe to hide them from the Romans. They get hungry in the middle of the night and, since the safe wasn't meant to be opened from inside, Obelix simply kicks the door off its hinges. The bank's owner, Zurix, has the Gauls moved to someone else's safe. That someone else turns out to be the Roman centurion who comes searching for the Gauls, finds the broken safe and questions the bank's security.
- In the film version of The Bourne Identity, the amnesiac hero starts out with no clue to his identity except the details of a Swiss bank account.
- The Spy Who Loved Me. After the two scientists complete the submarine tracking system, Stromberg transfers $10 million into their Swiss bank accounts. He then kills them, and cancels the transfers.
- The Spanish Prisoner.
Jimmy Dell: You now have a Swiss bank account if anybody asks. Credit Nationale Du Geneve, code name 'PADDY'. Lavish awkward gesture. All of fifteen Swiss Francs in it, but if you ever want to impress anybody, they can find out you have a Swiss account. But, Swiss law prohibits the bank from revealing the balance. Thus are all men made equal.
- There's one in Smiley's People.
- The Order. The character Ben Nur has one.
- General M. Bison from the Street Fighter movie has one, which he wants the $20,000,000,000 ransom wired to.
- Fun with Dick and Jane: The local bad guy has stashed all his plundered money in an account like this (it's never mentioned what country it belongs to).
- A group of mercenaries in the 1985 comedy Water:
French agent: This is a dangerous mission, and some of you will die. But remember, in a world gone mad, you will die for a principle that you all hold close to your heart. Money!
Mercenaries: Viva franc! Viva deutschmark! Viva dollar! Viva numbered bank account in Switzerland!
- At the end of FX, Rollie and Leo use Rollie's special effects makeup expertise (and the stolen account information) to drain Nick DeFranco's Swiss bank account of nearly ten million dollars before the Swiss bankers find out that Nick has been killed.
- In the film Samurai Cop, the villian Fujiyama is accused of being a 'death merchant' who deposits his vast riches into a Swiss account
- In Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, the amnesiac hero starts out with no clue to his identity except the details of a Swiss bank account. This doesn't ultimately turn out to be a sign that he was a villain, but he did have something to hide.
- Robert Ludlum, again, plays with the lazy version of the trope in The Ostermann Weekend. The protagonist discovers that a man who may be a foreign spy has a Swiss bank account, and considers this to be Evidence, but it turns out that the man is innocent, and his response to being accused of having a Swiss bank account is basically, "Yes, I do. What's your point?"
- Artemis Fowl has several Swiss Bank Accounts, though probably not as many as when he was still (moderately) evil. A couple of villains (most noteably in The Infinity Code) also had Swiss Bank Accounts, ripe for Artemis to dig his fingers into.
- In Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Dmitri Popov sets up a Swiss Bank Account for the terrorists he's hired, as a secure way to transfer their payment to them. Once it becomes obvious that they're going to fail at the mission, he transfers all the money to an account he set up for himself.
- In Clear And Present Danger, the mystique of this trope is bluntly deconstructed, not only because the Cartel having their drug accounts in Swiss banks does nothing to protect them from seizure once their illegality is discovered, but it's explicitly pointed out the only thing that makes the banks more secure is that fact the countries they reside in weren't invaded as much, giving the illusion of security.
- In The Da Vinci Code, one of the clues to the Holy Grail is held in a Swiss bank.
- In the Stephen King short story "The Deathroom", the protagonist thinks that "in the end there might only be one way to tell the thugs from the patriots: when they saw their own death rising in your eyes like water, patriots made speeches. The thugs, on the other hand, gave you the number of their Swiss bank account and offered to put you on-line."
- People in the various John Grisham novels prefer accounts in the Grand Caymans to accounts in Switzerland. Even the good guys do their banking there.
Live Action TV
- The Villain Protagonist of Kessler had a Swiss bank account.
- In The Pretender, episode "Collateral Damage", Jarod hacks into the villain of the week's Swiss bank account to confirm that he's been receiving payoffs from a drug cartel.
- Burn Notice
- Episode "Friends and Enemies":
Michael Westen: Who do you work for?
Gregory Hart: I work for a 16-digit Swiss bank account number, and an anonymous email address.
- Michael's friend Barry specializes in setting those up and using them to launder money for criminals and spies.
- In one episode a government agent is trying to bully Michael so he has Barry set up an offshore account in the agent's name. They then move the same few thousand dollars in and out of the account repeatedly to make it seem like the agent is receiving payoffs through the account. Michael then blackmails the agent with this to have him back off.
- Mission Impossible: In "the Council" episode, the mobsters are using a swiss bank account.
- In Human Target Season 2 premiere Ilsa (a a good person) has a vault in a Swiss bank which can only be entered with retina scans of both Ilsa and her late husband; the bad guy uses her (in a hostage situation) and her dead husband's eyeball, removed from his body to get in to steal their billions. In another episode she transfers a couple mil from her Swiss bank to a local bank specifically in order to draw out some Dirty Cops who were looking for her; in that same episode the main bad guy has an offshore bank account in Barbados where he stores his ill-gotten gains.
- An episode of Murphy Brown had a millionaire fall in love with Murphy and shower her with expensive gifts to try to get her to marry him, until he flat out tries to bribe her with a large check. She says no, the guy finally relents...and proposes to Kay, who immediately accepts. Murphy is horrified and calls Kay out on this...
Kay: [softly to Murphy] Don't worry. I'll have this money in my Cayman Islands account before we're within miles of an altar.
- The unsophisticated drug lord Marlo Stanfield from The Wire has to be introduced to this trope (Antillean off-shore version) and even then he decides to visit the bank in person to verify that his money is actually there.
- Champions adventure Red Doom. When Colonel Vasalov hires some supervillains to attack the heroes, he promises to pay each of them with $100,000 in a Swiss bank account.
- In Evita, the corrupt government's lavish spending is explained in the song "And The Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)", which is all about Eva's charity work until the last verse:
If the money keeps rolling in what's a girl to do?
Cream a little off the top for expenses--wouldn't you?
But where on Earth can people hide their little piece of Heaven?
Thank God for Switzerland
Where a girl and a guy with a little petty cash between them
Can be sure when they deposit no-one's seen them
Oh what bliss to sign your checks as three-o-one-two-seven
Never been accounts in the name of Eva Peron!
- In Mega Man 9, the villainous Dr Wily is revealed to have a Swiss bank account with the account number 19-871-217 (a shout-out to the original game, released on 1987-12-17).
- Druglord: The player-character's bank is supposed to be a Swiss bank.
- In the game Tropico, one of the scoring metrics is how much money you can embezzle into your Swiss bank account.
- In Day of the Tentacle, Dr. Edison has a Swiss Bank account that's almost completely depleted. One of the more significant puzzles in the game requires you to get access to the account through trickery, then find a way to get a lot of money into it, so that you can use the money to buy a really big diamond.
- In one episode of G.I. Joe Extreme, Rampage mentions he'll transfer the money he got from a deal to his Swiss bank account.
- The Cayman Islands version appears in The Simpsons, "Bart the Fink":
Cayman Islands guy: (on phone) I'm sorry, but I cannot divulge information about that customer's secret illegal account.
Oh, crap. I shouldn't have said he was a customer.
Oh, crap. I shouldn't have said it was a secret.
Oh, crap! I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal.
It's too hot today.
- ↑ Many countries have laws that require the reporting of all deposits of certain amounts (in the US, it's $10,000) to the government anyway