New Delhi: The ‘Swiss Secrets’ project is investigating leaks of bank account information from Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second largest lender. The leak included over 18,000 accounts holding over $100 billion at their peaks. This is the only known leak of customer data from a major Swiss bank to journalists.
Switzerland is a well-known destination for money from around the world, in part because of its bank secrecy laws. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a Swiss bank account. But banks are supposed to avoid customers who have made money illegally or been involved in crimes – and journalists have identified dozens of corrupt officials, criminals and suspected human rights abusers among Credit Suisse account holders, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said. in a report.
Despite their notoriety – which in some cases would have been obvious from a quick Google search – Credit Suisse maintained relationships with some of these clients for years, although it is possible that some accounts were frozen by law enforcement.
The Swiss Secrets Project investigates these account holders, whose exploitation of Swiss banking secrecy is a prime example of how the international financial industry enables theft and corruption.
The Swiss Secrets data was provided to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source more than a year ago. Nothing is known about the identity of the source.
The source, however, provided a statement explaining his motives.
It reads, in part: “I believe that Swiss bank secrecy laws are immoral. The pretense of financial privacy is just a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders. “This situation fosters corruption and deprives developing countries of much-needed tax revenues.
“I would like to emphasize that the responsibility for this state of affairs does not lie with the Swiss banks but rather with the Swiss legal order. Banks are simply good capitalists by maximizing profits within the legal framework in which they operate. Simply put, Swiss lawmakers are responsible for enabling financial crimes and – by virtue of their direct democracy – the Swiss people have the power to do something about it.
The cases that deserved to be published involved customers known to be high risk: politically connected people or people accused or convicted of serious crimes. OCCRP said dozens of Credit Suisse accounts belong to prominent figures, alongside scandals, criminal investigations or high-profile political events in which they were involved.
One example is Rodoljub Radulovic, a high-ranking member of one of Eastern Europe’s largest cocaine smuggling cartels, led by notorious Serbian drug lord Darko Saric. Radulovic was able to open an account at Credit Suisse despite a long history of involvement in financial scandals in the United States. He then used it to launder more than 3 million euros in drug money, according to Serbian prosecutors.
Another is Eduard Seidel, a former senior executive in Nigeria at German telecommunications giant Siemens, whose accounts contained tens of millions of Swiss francs. Two of them have remained open for nearly a decade after allegations of his involvement in a major corruption scandal in Nigeria first surfaced.
Then there is Muller Conrad Rautenbach, a mining magnate who openly boasted of his willingness to bribe his way to the top, and was sanctioned by the US and EU. He opened high-value accounts at Credit Suisse even after the UN warned him that he was allegedly overseeing corrupt mining deals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The larger story that unites these cases is that of a large financial institution that allowed its customers to hide laundered or stolen assets. Almost all of the stories are based on publicly available information, which means Credit Suisse’s due diligence department would also have had access to them, OCCRP said.
“Everyone should have access to the banking system,” said financial crime expert Graham Barrow.
“What you shouldn’t be able to do is use the banking system to bring in corruptly acquired wealth and legitimize it.”