Indictment filed against Credit Suisse and Bulgarian criminal organisation

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (hereinafter “OAG”) has filed an indictment in the Swiss Federal Criminal Court against the Swiss bank Credit Suisse AG in Zurich (hereinafter “Credit Suisse”), one of its former relationship managers (hereinafter “Relationship Manager”) as well as against two intermediaries of a Bulgarian mafia clan. The OAG accuses them of committing several offences in connection with aggravated money laundering.

According to the information provided by the OAG, a Bulgarian criminal organisation allegedly trafficked cocaine in Europe for several years and laundered the profits made from it in Switzerland. The leader of the mafia clan has already been sentenced to long prison terms in several European countries for drug trafficking and belonging to a criminal organisation. Pursuant to the OAG’s press release, the proceeds from the sale of the narcotics were paid into several bank accounts in Switzerland controlled by the criminal organisation and then fed into legal economic circulation by purchasing real estate in Bulgaria and in Switzerland.

On 15 December 2020, the OAG has issued summary penalty orders against three other involved natural persons and ultimately indicted Credit Suisse and the three persons indicated above. It accuses the two intermediaries of having carried out acts that were likely to have thwarted the tracing of the origin as well as the confiscation of assets of criminal origin amounting to the equivalent of over CHF 87 million. According to the OAG, the former Relationship Manager would have been responsible for business relations in connection with the criminal organisation at least between July 2004 and December 2008. The OAG accuses her to have carried out transactions or having them carried out on the instructions of her clients, although there would have been strong indications that the funds originated from a crime. In particular, she would have disregarded her due diligence obligations under the Swiss money laundering legislation and would have prevented a report to the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS). In doing so, the Relationship Manager would have permanently thwarted the investigation of the origin as well as the tracing and confiscation of funds of criminal origin. As a result, she would have repeatedly contributed to having concealed the criminal origin of assets totalling more than CHF 140 million.

Thus, the OAG accuses Credit Suisse of failing to take all the reasonable organisational measures that were required to prevent the offence of aggravated money laundering from being committed by the Relationship Manager. In particular, the OAG accuses the bank of not having assigned the different business relationships or the same group of beneficial owners to a uniform risk group. Pursuant to the OAG, the process of opening and monitoring business relations carried out by the bank’s employees and the checks made by their superiors did not comply with the anti-money-laundering provisions in force or the bank’s internal directives. In addition, the OAG emphasised in its press release that the system of controls conducted both at management level and by the compliance service would have been flawed. Furthermore, the processes of analysis, coordination and communication and freezing bank accounts would have been dysfunctional and would have failed to prevent the flight of assets amounting to CHF 35 million – occurring even after the OAG issued a seizure order in August 2007.

The OAG emphasised in its press release that the presumption of innocence applies to all accused.

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