Eighteen thousand leaked Credit Suisse accounts last week revealed criminals, alleged human rights abusers, and sanctioned individuals among the bank’s customers, according to reports in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Following a whistleblower’s leak, the paper enlisted the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and 46 other international media outlets to investigate.
The accounts, which were opened at the Swiss bank between the 1940s and 2010s, held more than $100 billion, according to the reporting.
Among the individuals cited as Credit Suisse customers were a Yemeni spy chief implicated in torture, Venezuelan officials involved in a corruption scandal, and the sons of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Legal prohibitions against issuing accounts to criminals or accepting money connected to criminal activity are in place in Switzerland, though the country’s anti-money laundering agency has encountered difficulty in enforcing the laws, The New York Times reported.
Credit Suisse, the country’s second-largest bank, issued a 400-word statement in defense of its practices. About 90% of the accounts in question had been closed or were in the process of being closed before media inquiries began, the bank said. It is “comfortable” that the remaining accounts were vetted properly. The bank did not comment on individual customers and said that it has taken action “at the relevant times.”
Credit Suisse has, in the past ten years, become embroiled in a litany of unsavory dealings, including money-laundering and asset-sheltering. In 2014, the bank pleaded guilty to helping Americans file false tax returns and paid $2.6 billion in fines and restitution. In 2021, it agreed to pay $475 million for its participation in a Mozambique bribery scheme.
“The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders,” said the whistleblower, according to the OCCRP statement. “This situation enables corruption and starves developing countries of much-needed tax revenue.”