In a development that will do little to boost confidence in the transparency of the Swiss banking system, Credit Suisse has become the focus of a global money laundering and tax evasion investigation after prosecutors in the Netherlands received a tip-off concerning 55,000 suspect accounts.
The Swiss bank’s offices in Amsterdam, London and Paris have been raided in connection with a number of linked investigations in no fewer than five countries, including Germany and Australia.
The Netherlands’ Fiscal Information and Investigation Service said on Friday it had arrested two people after carrying out raids that resulted in the seizure of assets said to be worth millions of euros, including gold bars, paintings, jewellery, luxury cars, real estate and cash.
Separately, Reuters reported on Friday that UK investigators have launched a probe into suspected money laundering and tax evasion by an unnamed “global financial institution”.
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the UK’s tax authority, said it would be investigating senior employees of the unidentified firm, along with a number of its customers.
Expressing surprise at the timing of the raids, Credit Suisse’s Head of International Wealth Management Iqbal Khan told Bloomberg that the Dutch investigation involves people not employed by the bank, and that no assets held by Credit Suisse had been seized.
Responding to news of the raids, the bank released a statement saying: “On 30 March 2017, Credit Suisse offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam were contacted by local authorities concerning client tax matters. We are cooperating with the authorities.”
In a bid to limit any immediate damage to its reputation, Credit Suisse today took out a number of adverts with national UK newspapers outlining its zero tolerance policy on tax evasion.
The ads, which appeared in the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph, read: “Credit Suisse applies a strict zero tolerance policy and wishes to conduct business with clients that have paid their taxes and fully declared their assets.
“We strictly comply with all the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate…
“Consistent with our zero tolerance policy, we continue to work closely with the local authorities in all matters and particularly in this new case.”
The raids have drawn unwelcome attention to the Swiss banking system, which has for many years harboured a reputation for helping wealthy individuals hide their assets and avoid paying tax.
In 2014, Credit Suisse was handed a $2.6 billion fine by US regulators after admitting it had helped wealthy American citizens evade tax. Switzerland’s second-biggest bank pleaded guilty to helping clients hide their assets in offshore accounts, in a conspiracy prosecutors described as “brazen”.