Vast leak exposes how Credit Suisse served strongmen and spies

The data covers accounts that were open from the 1940s until well into the 2010s but not the bank's current operations. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The client rosters of Swiss banks are among the world's most closely guarded secrets, protecting the identities of some of the planet's richest people and clues into how they accumulated their fortunes.

Now, an extraordinary leak of data from Credit Suisse, one of the world's most iconic banks, is exposing how the bank held hundreds of millions of dollars for heads of state, intelligence officials, sanctioned businessmen and human rights abusers, among many others.

A self-described whistleblower leaked data on more than 18,000 bank accounts, collectively holding more than US$100 billion (S$134.6 billion), to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper shared the data with a non-profit journalism group, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and 46 other news organisations around the world, including The New York Times.

The data covers accounts that were open from the 1940s until well into the 2010s but not the bank's current operations.

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.

Bank spokesman Candice Sun said in a statement that "Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank's purported business practices".

Ms Sun said that while Credit Suisse cannot comment on specific clients, many of the accounts identified in the leaked database have already been closed.

"Of the remaining active accounts, we are comfortable that appropriate due diligence, reviews and other control-related steps were taken, including pending account closures," she said.

The leaked records were provided to Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung more than a year ago by an unidentified whistleblower. Of the dozens of news organisations collaborating on the project, none were based in Switzerland, where a 2015 law restricted journalists from writing articles based on internal bank data.

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