CREDIT Suisse Group AG managed accounts for clients involved in human rights abuses, corruption and drug trafficking, according to newspaper reports based on leaked data on more than 18,000 accounts that together held more than $100 billion.
An anonymous whistle-blower gave the information to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared the data with a nonprofit journalism group and dozens of other news organizations worldwide. The data covers accounts opened from the 1940s until well into the last decade, the New York Times said Sunday. The Guardian said some of the accounts remain open.
Credit Suisse issued a statement soon after the stories were published, saying it “strongly rejects the allegations and insinuations about the bank’s purposed business practices”. It said the information is “based on partial, inaccurate, or selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct.”
It said it reviewed the accounts involved after receiving inquiries from the consortium working on the stories. About 90% are closed or were already in the process of being shut, of which more than 60% were closed before 2015, the bank said.
“Of the remaining active accounts, we are comfortable that appropriate due diligence, reviews and other control related steps,” the Zurich-based lender said.
Among the issues highlighted in the Times:
- There were 25 accounts holding about $270 million that belonged to people accused of involvement in a conspiracy surrounding Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.
- Another account belonged to Zimbabwean businessman Muller Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach under sanction by US and European authorities for his connections to the government of former President Robert Mugabe.
According to the Guardian, account holders included:
- A human trafficker in the Philippines
- A Hong Kong stock exchange official jailed for bribery
- Corrupt officials in countries including Egypt and Ukraine
“These media allegations appear to be a concerted effort to discredit not only the bank but the Swiss financial market-place as a whole, which has undergone significant changes over the last several years,” Credit Suisse said in Sunday’s statement.
“In line with financial market reforms across the sector and in Switzerland, Credit Suisse has taken a series of significant additional measures over the last decade, including considerable further investments in combating financial crime.”