The reputation of the Swiss financial center suffers another blow. Published as “Swiss Secrets,” a new international journalistic investigation highlights questionable practices by Credit Suisse, the country’s second-largest bank. This data revives the debates around the transparency of the Swiss financial center, which, however, tries to take care of its image.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a consortium of 47 international media outlets, including the world, The Guardian where the New York Times, allege that the banking establishment has housed funds from crime, corruption or the embezzlement of public money for several decades. The collaborative investigation is based on the leak of information from more than 18,000 bank accounts managed by Credit Suisse from the 1940s to the late 2010s.
For its part, the banking establishment firmly rejected these accusations, considering that they were based on data “partial”, “incorrect” Where “taken out of context”. Credit Suisse also did not fail to point out that some of this information was sixty years old and that 90% of the accounts in question were closed. Claims appearing as “a concerted effort to discredit not just the bank but the Swiss financial center as a whole”the establishment reacted again.
shaken by scandals
Since March 2021, Crédit Suisse has been rocked by repeated scandals: the bankruptcy of the financial company Greensill, the implosion of the American fund Archegos, the fines for loans in Mozambique and the abrupt resignation of its president, eight and a half months after taking office. the command, for breaking the quarantine rules.
This led the shareholder organization Actares, which campaigns for a sustainable economy, to direct the request to this banking establishment. “Credit Suisse must finally create transparency on a seemingly unmanageable sum of discrepancies that affect not only investors but also the reputation of Swiss banks”she scolded.
Without denying the role that bank secrecy played in Switzerland’s success in the past, the Zurich newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung he himself noticed in his columns that a “part of the cases revealed by Suisse Secrets would no longer be possible” pursuant to current legislation. Indeed, the country has significantly revised its legislation since the confrontation with the United States on tax evasion, but also with the twists and turns over stolen data turned over to the German tax authorities.
As a sign of good faith, in 2014 Switzerland ratified a cooperation agreement with the United States obliging financial institutions to transmit certain data to US tax authorities. In 2015, the country signed an agreement with Brussels on the automatic exchange of information. “The anti-money laundering system has been continuously developed and strengthened in recent years”insists the Swiss Bankers Association. “Dishonest money does not interest the Swiss financial centre, for which reputation and integrity are key factors”she added.
A “Papers from Panama” effect
According to a report published in late October by the Swiss Ministry of Finance, reports to the Money Laundering Reporting Office were four times higher on an annual average between 2015 and 2019 than in the previous ten years.
The authors of this report explained “this rain of reports” due to the fact that banks, more sensitive to the risks that could affect them, have more control over their customers since major corruption cases such as the “Lava Jato” operation in Brazil. But also since press revelations like the Panama Papers or the Paradise Papers.
At the same time, Swiss legislative provisions regarding the press have also been tightened over the years, preventing investigations into banking establishments. The country’s main newspapers also regret today that they were not able to participate in the revelations of the Swiss Secrets scandal.