Credit Suisse: the sky is cloudy, zero tolerance to face tax probes

Credit Suisse extended its global charm offensive on Monday insisting it has "zero tolerance" for tax evasion after hundreds of its clients and top employees became the target of an international fraud probe.

The Zurich-based bank took out multiple adverts in British newspapers over the weekend as part of a damage-limitation effort after law enforcement agencies descended on three of its European offices Friday in a coordinated raid related to a tax evasion and money laundering probe.

"Credit Suisse applies a strict zero tolerance policy and wishes to conduct business with clients that have paid their taxes and fully declared their assets," Monday's ad said. The bank complies "with all applicable laws" in areas where it operates, it added.

Authorities in Europe and Australia on Friday announced a massive, coordinated tax fraud and money laundering investigation with hundreds of possible suspects across five countries. Dutch prosecutors received a tip concerning 55,000 accounts in which suspects may have deposited money without disclosing it to authorities.

However, an investigation had been originally launched back in 2016 across five countries, and could see results or actions in the next few weeks.

Credit Suisse's head of international wealth management, Iqbal Khan, told the Bloomberg news agency at the weekend that they were surprised by the investigations. However, he shared that the bank had later initiated an internal inquiry. Khan added, "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."

That claim appeared to be at odds with a statement from Britain's Revenue and Customs office, which referenced "senior employees" of a "global financial institution" as a focus of the investigation.

Khan also told Bloomberg he was surprised by the timing of the probe since Credit Suisse had "taken a proactive stance" against tax evasion in Europe.
None of the authorities participating in the operation disclosed the name of the financial institution but Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second largest bank, admitted that local authorities had visited its offices in Amsterdam, London and Paris "concerning client tax matters."
A spokesperson for the bank said that they were cooperating with authorities and that they had launched an internal probe into the matter.

The investigations, however, infuriated Switzerland's authorities because they were not given prior information about the same. The Dutch prosecutors said that they did not involve Swiss authorities in the investigations as the suspects were related only to Swiss accounts and were not Swiss residents.

Moreover, the FIOD said in a statement, "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."

Eurojust, the agency of the European Union, which deals with judicial co-operation in criminal issues, said that the inspections began in 2016 and any further actions are expected to take place in the next few weeks.

Eurojust said that the Dutch prosecutors had analyzed large volumes of information to search for those suspected of tax evasions and money laundering.