Credit Suisse handled billions of dollars in dirty money for decades, an international media investigation based on a massive data leak has claimed in the latest setback for Switzerland’s second-largest bank.
The bank held more than 7 billion euros ($8bn) in accounts of criminals, dictators, human rights abusers and businessmen who had been placed under sanctions, according to the investigation published on Sunday by a group comprising dozens of media organisations.
Credit Suisse rejected the “allegations and insinuations”, saying in a statement that many of the issues raised were historical, some dating back more than 70 years.
Shares in the bank, which had already been under pressure after a series of risk-management failures and a heavy 2021 loss, were indicated 1.8 percent lower in premarket activity.
According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a non-profit journalism group, the “Suisse Secrets” investigation began when an anonymous source shared bank data with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung more than a year ago.
That information, covering accounts collectively worth $100bn at their highest point, was trawled through by 48 media outlets worldwide, including The New York Times, Le Monde and The Guardian.
Accounts identified as problematic held more than $8bn in assets, the investigation found.
The accounts included those held by a Yemeni spy chief implicated in torture, the sons of an Azerbaijani strongman, a Serbian drug lord and bureaucrats accused of looting Venezuela’s oil wealth.
It was the largest leak ever from a major Swiss bank, OCCRP said.
The leak included information on more than 18,000 bank accounts, many of which “remained open well into the 2010s”, said the OCCRP.
“Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and insinuations about the bank’s purported business practices,” the bank said in its statement on Sunday.
“The matters presented are predominantly historical, in some cases dating back as far as the 1940s, and the accounts of these matters based on partial, inaccurate, or selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct.”
About 90 percent of the accounts reviewed were closed – or were in the process of being closed – before the press approached the bank, it continued, and more than 60 percent of them had been closed before 2015.
“Of the remaining active accounts, we are comfortable that appropriate due diligence, reviews and other control-related steps were taken in line with our current framework,” the statement added. “We will continue to analyze the matters and take additional steps if necessary.”
In a statement on its website, the OCCRP said: “We believe the dozens of examples we have cited raise serious questions about Credit Suisse’s effectiveness and commitment to meeting its responsibilities.”
It said the investigation had found dozens of “dubious characters” in the data, including some linked to government officials.
Among those listed as holding accounts with Credit Suisse were the sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
When asked why so many of these accounts existed, current and former Credit Suisse employees described a work culture that incentivised taking on risk to maximise profits, according to OCCRP.
“I’ve too often seen criminals and corrupt politicians who can afford to keep on doing business as usual, no matter what the circumstances, because they have the certainty that their ill-gotten gains will be kept safe and always within their reach,” said OCCRP co-founder Paul Radu in a statement.