Troubled Credit Suisse has criminals, fraudsters and corrupt politicians as well as the ultra-wealthy and royalty among its historic customers, a major data leak revealed.
The Swiss banking giant, which has lurched from one calamity to the next in recent years, was left denying any wrongdoing after a whistleblower revealed the details of some 30,000 accounts.
Credit Suisse will be facing a barrage of questions from clients, regulators, politicians and investors.
Flying the flag: Credit Suisse’s Zurich HQ. The Swiss banking giant was left denying any wrongdoing after a whistleblower revealed the details of some 30,000 accounts
While some will want to know whether the bank’s financial crime checks are up to scratch, others will be demanding an explanation of how sensitive customer data ended up plastered across world media outlets.
The leak was yet another blow for the beleaguered lender, which just last month lost its chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio.
The ex-boss of Lloyds Bank had been drafted in to get Credit Suisse back on the right track, following its involvement in a string of scandals.
But he ended up drawing yet more unwanted attention to the lender when it emerged that he had broken UK lockdown rules last summer to attend the Wimbledon men’s tennis final and the Euro 2020 football final, when he should have been isolating.
This latest data leak, which was published on Sunday after being handed to a handful of global news firms, showed that Credit Suisse’s customers had included a range of convicted criminals.
Ronald Li Fook-shiu, a former chairman of the Hong Kong stock exchange who was convicted for taking bribes in 1990, later opened an account which held more than £26million.
Eduard Seidel, a Siemens employee who was convicted of bribery in 2008, had accounts at Credit Suisse which were left open until well into the last decade.
And Stefan Sederholm, a Swedish computer technician who was convicted of human trafficking in the Philippines, was able to keep his account open for more than two years after he was found guilty in 2011.
Credit Suisse rejected ‘the allegations and insinuations about the bank’s purported business practices’ on Sunday.
‘The matters presented are predominantly historical, in some cases dating back as far as the 1940s, and the accounts of these matters are based on partial, inaccurate, or selective information taken out of context,’ a spokesman said.
But the leak of account details will have rattled Credit Suisse’s ultra-wealthy and powerful clients, who entrusted the bank with their financial secrets.
King Abdullah II of Jordan and his wife Queen Rania were the beneficial owners of at least seven accounts at Credit Suisse, the leak revealed.
Two accounts were opened during 2011, when the Middle East was enduring a period of violent civil unrest. One held £180million.
The breach of privacy now threatens to throw Switzerland’s entire financial sector into disrepute. And the allegations that the bank allowed unsavoury characters to open accounts have angered politicians.
A right royal mess: The King and Queen of Jordan were the beneficial owners of at least seven accounts at Credit Suisse
The European People’s Party (EPP) said the EU should consider whether Switzerland should be added to a list of countries associated with a high risk of financial crime.
Justifying the breach, the whistleblower said: ‘I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral. The pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders.’
But that whistleblower may now be feeling the heat, as Credit Suisse said it was taking the matter ‘very seriously’.
It said it would ‘continue with our investigations with an internal task force including specialist external experts’.
The fresh debacle is just the latest crisis to hit Credit Suisse.
Swiss prosecutors this month revealed they were pursuing the bank for allowing an alleged Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang to launder millions of euros, some of it stuffed into suitcases.
It would be the first criminal trial of a major bank in Switzerland – and Credit Suisse could be on the hook for £38million.
Last year, the judgement of senior managers at Credit Suisse was called into question following the collapse of Greensill Capital and Archegos Capital in quick succession.
Credit Suisse had invested billions of pounds of clients’ money into loan products connected to Greensill – and was left floundering when the business went bust.
And Credit Suisse had lent heavily to hedge fund Archegos, to help it fund bets on a handful of risky stocks. When those bets turned sour, and Archegos imploded, Credit Suisse haemorrhaged cash.
The disasters followed hot on the heels of a spying scandal, which prompted the departure of chief executive Tidjane Thiam in 2020.
It emerged that Credit Suisse’s former chief operating officer paid private detectives to tail two former employees, paranoid that they would poach his staff.
The affair blasted open the usually staid world of Swiss private banking, as stories emerged of a cocktail party bust-up between Credit Suisse’s top brass and a car-chase around Zurich as the spies pursued their target.
Investors in Credit Suisse had hoped Horta-Osorio’s appointment would be the end of Credit Suisse’s disastrous run.
After he was shunted out of the bank following his misdemeanour, Credit Suisse replaced him with Swiss banking insider Axel Lehmann.
Shareholders have little choice but to place their faith in him, but Lehmann faces a gargantuan task to get the bank back on the straight and narrow.
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