Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday, December 16, they had indicted Credit Suisse for failing to prevent money laundering by a Bulgarian criminal organization, in charges flatly rejected by Switzerland’s second largest bank.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said that after a 12-year investigation it had filed a string of indictments with the Federal Criminal Court in connection with a large-scale Bulgarian drug trafficking and money laundering operation.
Credit Suisse was accused in the indictment of “failing to take all the organizational measures that were reasonable and required to prevent the laundering of assets belonging to and under the control of the criminal organization.”
A former manager at the bank and two members of the criminal organization were also indicted for their roles in the scheme. Charges were meanwhile dropped against a second Credit Suisse executive.
The bank said in a statement that it had taken note “with astonishment of the decision of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.”
“Credit Suisse unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations raised against it and is convinced that its former employee is innocent,” it said, adding that it “intends to defend itself vigorously.”
The bank said it could face a maximum fine of up to 5 million Swiss francs and the disgorgement of profits in the proceedings before the criminal court.
The OAG opened back in 2008 an investigation of a Bulgarian wrestler, who worked mainly as a laborer in the southern Swiss canton of Wallis, and his employer, suspected of money laundering and membership in a criminal organization.
The investigation, relating to the period from 2004 to 2008, was gradually expanded to include more people believed to be part of the organization, which was allegedly involved in trafficking large amounts of cocaine from South America to Europe and laundering the proceeds, OAG said.
The employer of the Bulgarian wrestler was convicted in 2017 of aggravated money laundering, but it had been impossible to locate the wrestler and his wife, the OAG said.
Prosecutors therefore decided to separate the case, and have brought indictments for now against the former banker, the wrestler’s ex-wife, and her sister, for involvement in the organization.
In addition, OAG said it was indicting Credit Suisse in connection with the case.
It charged that the “process of opening and monitoring business relations carried out by the bank’s employees and the checks made by their superiors did not comply with the anti-money-laundering provisions in force or the bank’s internal directives.”
According to OAG, the bank had “failed to prevent the flight of assets amounting to the equivalent of around 35 million Swiss francs ($40 million, 32 million euros) related to the Bulgarian criminal organization.”
Credit Suisse meanwhile maintained that the organizational deficiencies it was accused of were “based on rules and principles that did not exist at the relevant period” or that were not applicable under Swiss law.
It also said its anti-money laundering framework had been “significantly expanded and strengthened” since the investigation began.
Compliance with regulator requirements, it stressed, “has been and remains an absolute priority for Credit Suisse.” – Rappler.com
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