United Kingdom raids as Dutch prosecutors launch 'Swiss bank' tax evasion probe

Apr 01, 2017, 01:18
United Kingdom raids as Dutch prosecutors launch 'Swiss bank' tax evasion probe

Credit Suisse Group AG, the second-largest Swiss wealth manager, faces a sweeping tax evasion and money laundering investigation spanning five countries and potentially involving thousands of account holders.

"The investigation will be executed by compliance, it will not be executed by the business", Iqbal Khan, who is responsible for Credit Suisse's private banking operations outside Switzerland and Asia Pacific, told Reuters.

"The sheer volume of data and its global scope makes this an exceptional case", said Thierry Boitelle, a lawyer with Bonnard Lawson in Geneva. Reportedly targeting 50,000 suspicious accounts at Credit Suisse worldwide, it opens up a new criminal worry for the bank as it grapples with a wide-ranging restructuring and capital restoration.

"The first phase of the investigation, which will see further, targeted activity over the coming weeks, is focused on senior employees from within the institution, along with a number of its customers", they said.

Eurojust, the European Union's judicial cooperation agency, said authorities in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia took part in an "action day" Thursday against companies and individuals in an operation begun by Dutch prosecutors and tax authorities following a Dutch probe opened a year ago.

The Zurich-based bank confirmed that it had been "contacted by local authorities concerning client tax matters" and that the firm is "co-operating". Bank officials declined to comment further. Under the OECD's Automatic Exchange of Information, banks pass on information to local tax agencies, which then share it with foreign counterparts.

Credit Suisse has paid more than 2 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion) since 2011 in the United States, Germany and Italy to settle allegations it helped clients dodge taxes.

The news will come as a further blow to Switzerland, which is already facing considerable global pressure to tackle tax evasion.

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The bank said in December this process had been completed for Europe.

Credit Suisse isn't alone.

Vissers said she would not publicly disclose the name of the Swiss bank involved. UBS Group AG, Switzerland's largest bank, turned over client names and paid $780 million in 2009 to settle its own dispute over tax evasion with the USA government.

"We are cooperating with the authorities", it added.

The Netherland's office for financial crimes prosecution (FIOD) said that, although it had received information about 50,000 secret accounts at a Swiss bank, "we received no information about Swiss residents". Dutch authorities in particular said they had detained two people and seized assets including luxury cars, paintings and even a gold bar in the multi-country sweep.

"The worldwide reach of this investigation sends a clear message that there is no hiding place for those seeking to evade tax", Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs said.

The worldwide reach of this investigation sends a clear message that there is no hiding place for those seeking to evade tax'.

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