WASHINGTON (AFP) - Credit Suisse admitted guilt on Monday to one criminal charge of aiding Americans avoid taxes, the first time the United States has extracted a guilty plea from a major bank in two decades.
The Swiss bank was hit with US$2.6 billion (S$3.25 billion) in fines in the years-long probe into banks making a business out of helping their clients evade US taxes.
"This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach, is above the law," US Attorney General Eric Holder said.
"When a bank engages in misconduct that is this brazen, it should expect that the Justice Department will pursue criminal prosecution to the fullest extent possible, as has happened here." The single felony charge filed in the federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia said Credit Suisse "did unlawfully, voluntarily, intentionally, and knowingly conspire" to help US citizens prepare and file false income tax returns.
The Justice Department said the Swiss bank helped people hide incomes in sham nominee accounts, destroyed account records, and hand-delivered money from the accounts to help clients avoid taxes.
The announcement of the guilty plea came after US justice authorities have come under great criticism for not prosecuting large banks especially for acts that led to the 2008 financial crash.
The Justice Department said it had indicted eight Credit Suisse bankers over the longstanding programme to aid US taxpayers avoid taxes by using offshore accounts.