Credit Suisse, the second-largest bank in Switzerland, plays a critical role in Switzerland’s secretive banking sector. However, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has uncovered leaked records identifying dozens of accounts – holding over $8 billion in total – belonging to corrupt politicians, criminals, spies, dictators, and other unsavory clients.
The leaked records analyzed by reporters show accounts held by several alleged human rights abusers, such as Algeria’s former defense minister Khaled Nezzar, the sons of an Azerbaijani strongman, and an Egyptian intelligence chief involved in torture of terrorism suspects. Credit Suisse also offered banking services to key figures implicated in corruption scandals in Angola, Kenya, Germany and Venezuela.
Compliance experts believe that Credit Suisse should not have allowed many of these people to become clients. This is because of the involvement of corrupt money and an illegitimate provenance. Unfortunately, the Swiss banking law criminalizes whistleblowing such that journalists risk prosecution for simply possessing private banking data. Moreover, OCCRP has found that there is a highly toxic corporate culture at Credit Suisse. Bankers are given strict rules, but are incentivized to ignore those rules. For example, for high net-worth accounts, the senior staff encourages everyone to ignore the strict due diligence measures. An OCCRP journalist even discovered that Credit Suisse staff can act as nominee shareholders and directors in holding companies, trusts and bank accounts, which can be registered to anonymous holding companies.
However, Credit Suisse has assured that it is a responsible financial institution that strives to maintain high banking standards. The bank says that risk management is its chief priority. Moreover, it says that most of the problematic accounts have already been closed or are in the process of closure.