Credit Suisse's Europe offices raided in tax evasion probe

Authorities act on tip-off in five countries, two people arrested

AMSTERDAM/ZURICH • Swiss bank Credit Suisse has been dragged into yet more tax evasion and money laundering investigations after a tip-off to Dutch prosecutors about tens of thousands of suspect accounts triggered raids in five nations.

Coordinated raids began last Thursday in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, France and Australia, the Dutch office for financial crimes prosecution (Fiod) said last Friday, with two arrests confirmed so far. The Dutch are "investigating dozens of people who are suspected of tax fraud and money laundering", the prosecutors said, adding that the suspects had deposited money in a Swiss bank without disclosing that to the authorities.

British tax authorities said they have opened a criminal investigation into suspected tax evasion and money laundering by "a global financial institution".

They would be focusing initially on "senior employees", along with an unspecified number of customers.

Prosecutors in the German city of Cologne said they were also working with the Dutch.

"We have launched an investigation against clients of a bank," a spokesman noted.

None of the authorities disclosed the name of the bank.

However, Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, said the local authorities had visited its offices in Amsterdam, London and Paris "concerning client tax matters" and it was cooperating.

It said later it had launched an internal probe.

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

"If any individuals are implicated or have violated against these processes or procedures or policies that are in place, then we will identify that very quickly."

The Fiod seized administrative records as well as the contents of bank accounts, real estate, jewellery, a luxury car, expensive paintings and a gold bar from houses in four Dutch towns and cities.

It tweeted a photo of some of the seized assets. The people arrested were not identified.

The actions angered Switzerland's Office of the Attorney-General, which said it was "disconcerted" by the way the Dutch authorities had handled the matter and would demand an explanation.

Dutch prosecutors responded that the Swiss authorities had been left out of the investigation because none of the suspects is Swiss.

"If the Swiss authorities wish to receive information on the investigation, we, the other countries involved and Eurojust, are always willing to discuss (that) with them," the Fiod said in a statement.

Eurojust, the European Union agency that coordinates cross-border prosecutions, said the investigation began last year.

Representatives from the countries involved - Switzerland not among them - had held three preparatory meetings to share information before last Thursday's raids.

Prosecutors "analysed a huge amount of data", Eurojust said, looking for "individuals and groups suspected of tax fraud and money laundering".

For Zurich-based Credit Suisse, the case reopens the thorny issue of tax evasion, which has dogged Swiss banks for years as wealthy individuals around the world have used the country's strict bank secrecy laws to hide cash from the taxman.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Credit Suisse's Europe offices raided in tax evasion probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe