Here is yet another inventory of the rich and infamous. The Irish Times reports, “Vast Leak Exposes How Credit Suisse Served Strongmen and Spies.” This latest financial data leak lists 18,000 Credit Suisse accounts from the 1940s into the 2010s, though contains no data on current accounts. In keeping with the alliterative tradition established with 2016’s Panama Papers and continuing through 2017’s Paradise Papers and last year’s Pandora Papers, this roster has been dubbed Suisse Secrets. We learn:
“Among the people listed as holding amounts worth millions of dollars in Credit Suisse accounts were King Abdullah II of Jordan and the two sons of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Other account holders included sons of a Pakistani intelligence chief who helped funnel billions of dollars from the United States and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Venezuelan officials ensnared in a long-running corruption scandal. The leak shows that Credit Suisse opened accounts for and continued to serve not only the ultra-wealthy but also people whose problematic backgrounds would have been obvious to anyone who ran their names through a search engine. Swiss banks have long faced legal prohibitions on taking money linked to criminal activity, said Daniel Thelesklaf, the former head of Switzerland’s anti-money laundering agency. But, he said, the law generally hasn’t been enforced.”
You don’t say. Of course, Swiss banks are famous for their high security, so this leak was quite the feat. A whistleblower sent the data to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung over a year ago. That paper has since then shared the list with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and 46 other news organizations around the world. None of those outlets were based in Switzerland, however, since a 2015 Swiss law prohibits the publication of articles based on internal bank data. The article also notes:.
“Among the biggest revelations is that Credit Suisse continued to do business with customers even after bank officials flagged suspicious activity involving their finances. One account holder was Venezuela’s former vice minister of energy, Nervis Villalobos. Employees in Credit Suisse’s compliance department had reason to be wary of doing business with him.”
See the write-up for more on Villalobos and other noteworthy examples, including several Middle East officials.
A Credit Suisse spokesperson notes many of the accounts date back to “a time where laws, practices and expectations of financial institutions were very different from where they are now.” Indeed. Since its founding in 1856 until fairly recently, the institution was largely untouchable. As the public’s tolerance for shady dealings has waned, however, the bank has faced more scrutiny. We are reminded that, in 2014, it pled guilty to helping Americans file false tax returns; in 2016, it forked over $5.3 billion to settle allegations about its mortgage-backed securities marketing; and last year it agreed to pay $475 million to authorities in the US and the UK over a Mozambique kickback and bribery scheme. Of course, those are small prices to pay compared to managing more than $100 billion in questionable funds. Currently, an ongoing trial in Switzerland sees Credit Suisse accused of helping drug traffickers launder millions of euros and the US Justice Department and Senate finance committee are investigating whether US citizens are still hiding millions within its hallowed vaults. What are the odds of that?
Cynthia Murrell, March 1, 2022