SwissLeaks investigation says Credit Suisse has handled dirty money for decades

Credit Suisse, still suffering a loss of billions of dollars last year, faced a new challenge on Sunday: allegations from an international investigation that it handled dirty money for decades.

A cross-border media investigation erupted on Sunday alleging that Switzerland’s second-largest bank held tens of billions of dollars in illicit money, allegations based on a massive insider data leak.

Credit Suisse dismissed the “allegations and insinuations” in a statement on Sunday, saying that many of the issues raised are historical, some dating back to the 1940s.

The investigation, coordinated by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), unites 47 different media outlets around the world including France’s Le Monde and Britain’s Guardian.

This latest project, dubbed “SwissLeaks” by OCCRP, stemmed from a data leak to German newspapers Suddeutsche Zeitung a little over a year ago.

Le Monde newspaper said the investigation showed that Credit Suisse had violated international banking rules by withholding funds linked to crime and corruption over several decades.

The leak included information on more than 18,000 bank accounts dating from the 1940s to the 2000s belonging to 37,000 individuals or companies, according to the OCCRP.

She added that this was the largest leak ever from a large Swiss bank.

In its statement on Sunday, the bank said: “Credit Suisse strongly rejects allegations and insinuations regarding the bank’s alleged business practices.

“The issues presented are mostly historical, in some cases going back to the 1940s, and accounts of these matters are based on partial, inaccurate, or selective information taken out of their context, leading to biased interpretations of commercial bank behaviour.”

She added that about 90 per cent of the accounts reviewed had been closed – or were in the process of closing – before the press contacted the bank. More than 60 percent of them were closed before 2015.

“We believe that the dozens of examples we cited raise serious questions about Credit Suisse’s effectiveness and commitment to meeting its responsibilities,” OCCRP said, in a statement on its website.

She added that the investigation had found dozens of “suspicious figures” in the data.

Among them were the Yemeni intelligence chief implicated in torture, the children of an Azerbaijani strongman, a Serbian drug lord, and bureaucrats accused of looting Venezuela’s oil wealth.

Le Monde said the amounts identified in the leaked accounts amounted to more than $100 billion (88 billion euros).

It mainly includes developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. Only one percent of the accounts relate to clients who are based in Western Europe.

Series of setbacks The international investigation is the latest in a string of setbacks that Credit Suisse has suffered in recent times.

In March 2021, the bank suffered the collapse of Greensill Capital, in which it had pledged about $10 billion through four funds. The collapse of the American fund Archegos cost more than 5 billion dollars.

And in Switzerland, a former employee of Credit Suisse was among the defendants in a major corruption trial that had just begun relating to alleged money laundering and organized crime in Bulgaria. The bank said it would defend itself vigorously in court.

News media involved in the SwissLeaks investigation include the New York Times, Italy’s La Stampa, Kenya’s Africa Uncensored, and Argentina’s La Nacion.


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