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Global Economy

The scandal bank from Paradeplatz

For Credit Suisse, the year 2022 is not exactly getting off to a good start. The bank is currently having to answer to the Federal Criminal Court together with a former customer advisor. The accusation: The bank is said to have helped a Bulgarian drug lord launder 146 million Swiss francs between 2004 and 2008. The bank explains that it firmly rejects this accusation and is also convinced of the innocence of the former employee.

The case is – together with the "Suisse Secrets" that have now become public – the latest incident in a company history that is not exactly poor in scandals. As early as autumn 1999, the bank made negative headlines. More than 660 million US dollars had turned up in Switzerland, which could be attributed to the brutal Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. The Credit Suisse Group had also managed three-digit million sums from the dictator. The Swiss financial market supervisory authority Finma therefore accused her of serious deficiencies in money laundering prevention. Credit Suisse then emphasized that the monitoring procedures had been tightened.

Many scandals and high penalties

In December 2009 it was announced that the US bank had to pay a record fine of 536 million US dollars. Lawyers for Credit Suisse had to admit to US authorities that Credit Suisse Bank had "consciously and intentionally violated US sanctions rules or attempted to circumvent them". Among other things, the bank was accused of handling illegal transactions in the amount of more than 1.6 billion US dollars, including with customers from Iran and Libya.

The next scandal followed just two years later: a whistleblower had leaked a data CD with the names of German Credit Suisse customers to German tax investigators. They hid their assets from the German tax authorities at the Swiss bank. Numerous criminal proceedings in Germany against German Credit Suisse customers follow. Particularly piquant: the data CD also contained a presentation that suggested that Credit Suisse was well aware that many German customers were parking black money in Switzerland. In order to avoid a lawsuit, the bank paid a fine of 150 million euros.

Credit Suisse has repeatedly had to appear in court in other countries for helping clients evade taxes in their home countries. In the course of years of investigations by the US authorities, the bank pleaded guilty in 2014 to having also helped US customers with tax evasion. The bank accepted a $2.6 billion fine.

Involved in international corruption and fraud scandals

In the years that followed, the bank attracted negative attention because it was accused of not taking money laundering prevention seriously enough and of hiding black money from international customers. The US Senate is currently investigating Credit Suisse bankers who, despite promises to the contrary, are said to have helped American customers to evade taxes after 2014.

The name Credit Suisse also appears time and again in international corruption and fraud scandals. Perhaps one of the most spectacular cases involves the planned financing of a tuna fishing fleet in Mozambique. Credit Suisse bankers in London, together with other banks, arranged billions in loans for the East African country between 2013 and 2016 – and pocketed lavish kickback payments from the loan to the poor country. The bank accepted a penalty of around half a billion US dollars for this last year.

Shadowing by Credit Suisse

But not only foreign countries, also the own or former employees are not spared from scandals. In February 2020, the shadowing of former Credit Suisse top manager Iqbal Khan came to light. Khan had switched to competitor UBS, and the bank wanted to find out if he had taken clients with him. The then head of the bank, Tidjane Thiam, said he had no knowledge of the shadowing, nor did the rest of the top management. The board of directors separated from Thiam anyway.

The bank was sharply reprimanded by the Swiss financial market authority Finma: It found serious shortcomings in the organization. The extent of the affair was therefore far greater than initially assumed. Between 2016 and 2019, a total of seven people are said to have been shadowed, including abroad.

In the statement on the "Suisse Secrets", Credit Suisse emphasizes that it is aware of its responsibility towards "customers and the entire financial system (…) to comply with the highest standards of conduct". The bank continues: "In conducting its business, Credit Suisse complies with applicable global and local laws and regulations. In recent years, the bank has implemented a number of significant measures in line with financial reforms in Switzerland, including major investments."

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