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Picture: REUTERS/AMD WIEGMANN
Picture: REUTERS/AMD WIEGMANN

Credit Suisse was convicted of failing to prevent money laundering by a Bulgarian cocaine trafficker, in the first-ever criminal conviction of a major Swiss lender in the country’s history. 

The verdict, in which a former relationship manager at the bank was also convicted on money laundering charges, was handed down by Switzerland’s top criminal court on Monday afternoon. Credit Suisse will be fined Sf2m ($2.1m) over the conviction, the court ruled. 

The decision is another blow to the tarnished reputation of Credit Suisse, which has argued that the crimes date to an era when compliance standards were less stringent. It has been struggling with a series of scandals that have sent its shares to near-record lows, and may face a second criminal indictment in an unrelated case later in 2022.

The case was criticised by Credit Suisse for having been brought so many years after the events in question. The bank expressed its “astonishment” in late 2020 when Swiss prosecutors publicly charged it with money laundering offences, given that the alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2008. 

Credit Suisse said in a pretrial statement that it “unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations in this legacy matter raised against it and is convinced that its former employee is innocent”.

But under Swiss law, local prosecutors can press criminal charges against banks if they believe those institutions did not do enough to screen clients and their cash for obvious ties to illicit activity.

The former Credit Suisse manager, a woman who can only be named as E under Swiss reporting restrictions, accepted deposits of used bank notes that regularly exceeded €500,000 at a time, according to the 515-page indictment. Cash deposits were very common given the parlous state of Bulgaria’s banks at the time, she said in testimony. 

Bloomberg News

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