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Credit Suisse raided, client assets seized in tax evasion probe

LiveMint logoLiveMint 31-03-2017 Jan-Henrik Förster

Zurich/Amsterdam: Credit Suisse Group AG, some of its employees and hundreds of account holders are the subjects of a major tax evasion and money laundering probe that spans five countries.

Investigators in the Netherlands arrested two individuals on Thursday, seizing a gold bar, paintings, jewellery and bank account information. They allegedly concealed millions of euros from authorities by placing them in Swiss bank accounts, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service said in a statement Friday. Criminal investigations are also underway in Australia, Germany, the UK and France.

Credit Suisse said Friday that its offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam were searched Thursday by authorities in connection with client tax matters.

The UK tax authority is investigating “senior employees” at a global financial institution, it said in a statement. Australia’s Serious Financial Crime Taskforce said it had identified 346 of its citizens “with links to Swiss banking relationship managers alleged to have actively promoted and facilitated tax evasion schemes.”

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Credit Suisse is cooperating with the authorities, the bank said in a statement Friday from Zurich. The bank said it has “implemented Dutch and French voluntary tax disclosure programs and exited non-compliant clients,” and has applied a withholding tax agreement with the UK since 2013.

The bank has been hit hard in the past over tax evasion allegations. Credit Suisse was fined $2.6 billion in the US in 2014 for helping Americans evade taxes. The bank paid a €150 million fine in Germany in 2011 to end court proceedings over allegations it helped clients evade taxes. The raids were done without informing authorities in Switzerland, the attorney general’s office in that country said in a statement. The Swiss aren’t conducting a criminal probe into the matter, a spokeswoman said.

“The sheer volume of data and its international scope makes this an exceptional case,” said Thierry Boitelle, a lawyer with Bonnard Lawson in Geneva.

New global standard

The investigations come as Credit Suisse begins implementing a new global standard for the automated exchange of information for its European locations. About 100 countries, or jurisdictions, including Switzerland, have agreed to collect data from banks to share annually with other tax authorities, making it harder for tax dodgers and money launderers to hide money with private banks.

A spokeswoman for the French financial prosecutor’s office declined to comment immediately, citing a continuing operation. Simone Meier, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse, declined to comment.

Dutch public prosecutor’s office confirmed that authorities had received information on 55,000 people with accounts at a Swiss bank, including 3,800 Dutch people, spokeswoman Marieke van der Molen said. In the Netherlands, there are “dozens of suspects,” she said.

“The international reach of this investigation sends a clear message that there is no hiding place for those seeking to evade tax,” the UK authority said in its statement. Bloomberg

Hugo Miller, Franz Wild and Giles Broom also contributed to this story.

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