The "Suisse Secrets" scandal is another mark for the bank, which has been collecting such setbacks in recent years... Photo: Shutterstock

The "Suisse Secrets" scandal is another mark for the bank, which has been collecting such setbacks in recent years... Photo: Shutterstock

Finance service company Credit Suisse has been accused by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of 47 media outlets--including Le Monde, The Guardian, The Miami Herald--of continuously engaging in money laundering operations.

This was revealed following a lengthy analysis by 152 journalists from 39 countries. The OCCRP examined more than 18,000 bank accounts hosted from the early 1940s to the late 2010s. The data was anonymously handed over to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung a little over a year ago.

These accounts belonged to 37,000 individuals and companies. The assets amounted to €100bn. Of this amount, €8bn are linked to "problematic clients", according to the OCCRP--dictators, corrupt politicians, large fortunes of illicit or dubious origin, individuals and companies subject to international sanctions and criminal or mafia networks--for whom "the financial institution has hosted funds linked to crime and corruption for several decades", and this "in disregard of the rules of vigilance imposed on major international banks”, according to the group.

Credit Suisse firmly denies these claims "concerning the bank's alleged business practices”, it said.

A legacy from the past

"The matters presented are predominantly historical, in some cases dating back as far as the 1940s, and the accounts of these matters are based on partial, inaccurate, or selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank's business conduct. While as a matter of law Credit Suisse cannot comment on potential client relationships, we can confirm that actions have been taken in line with applicable policies and regulatory requirements at the relevant times, and that related issues have already been addressed," Credit Suisse said

"Approximately 90% of the reviewed accounts are today closed or were in the process of closure prior to receipt of the press inquiries, of which over 60% were closed before 2015,” the bank continued.

The bank says it is investigating the source of the data leak that led to the affair.

For Credit Suisse, it is the Swiss financial centre as a whole that is targeted. The source of the data leak, which was handed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, said it aimed to expose "the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders".

Not just historical cases

A legacy from the past? This is the bank's defence before the federal criminal court in Bellinzona, in the canton of Ticino, where it is being tried for laundering the money of a Bulgarian drug trafficking network between 2004 and 2007.

The OCCRP questions Credit Suisse's commitment to the financial transparency initiative led by the G20 and the OECD. The consortium believes that the practices highlighted are still taking place within the bank and directly involve Credit Suisse's senior management. The bank is said to offer "wealthy clients seeking discretion" a range of products--the spiritual descendants of anonymous numbered accounts--that make it possible to conceal the origin of funds.

This targets mainly clients from developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America. Clients from Western Europe account for only 1% of potential actors.

Among the clients mentioned are the Kazakh president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Armen Sarkissian, president of Armenia until last January, King Abdullah II of Jordan, a host of officials from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen "who took large sums of money out of their countries at the time of the Arab Spring", as well as Robert Mugabe and an executive of the Siemens group who bribed Nigerian officials.

CHF1.57bn in losses for the year 2021

In recent months, Credit Suisse has been involved in several high-profile cases: the collapse of the company, that of the American fund Archegos, a corruption scandal in Mozambique which earned it a $475m fine by the American and British authorities in November and the Forex case which earned it a sanction from the Commission. The bank was also fined $2.6bn in the US in 2014 in a massive tax evasion case.

One of the reasons often given for the bank's involvement in so many scandals is a "lack of risk culture". Appointed at the end of April 2021 to remedy this, Antonio Horta-Osório launched a reorganisation of the bank's activities to "put risk management back at the heart of the bank's culture". But he was sacked in December for breaching quarantine rules. He was succeeded by Axel Lehmann.

On 10 February, the bank announced a loss of CHF1.57bn due to the insolvency of the hedge Archegos Capital Management, which cost it $5bn.

This story was first published in French on . It has been translated and edited for Delano.