Switzerland Under Threat of Being Added to EU's Money-Laundering Blackist Amid Credit Suisse Leak

© REUTERS / ARND WIEGMANNThe logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland February 21, 2022
The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland February 21, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2022
On Monday, Credit Suisse lashed out at "concerted effort to discredit" the bank as a massive data leak revealed that the lender's accounts had been used by clients involved in serious crimes such as money laundering or drug trafficking.
The European People's party (EPP) has urged the EU to review its ties with Switzerland and consider if the country should be added to the bloc's money-laundering blacklist amid fallout from a huge leak of Credit Suisse banking data.
The leak dubbed, "Suisse Secrets", contained info that one of the world's most iconic private banks managed accounts for human rights abusers, fraudsters, and businessmen who were placed under sanctions.
Markus Ferber, the economic affairs coordinator for the EPP, the largest political grouping in the European Parliament, said in a statement on Monday, that "when Swiss banks fail to apply international anti-money-laundering standards properly, Switzerland itself becomes a high-risk jurisdiction".

"When the list of high-risk third countries in the area of money laundering is up for revision the next time, the European Commission needs to consider adding Switzerland to that list", he stressed.

The EPP's economic affairs coordinator added that bank privacy laws "must not become a pretext to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion", arguing that "the Swiss Secrets findings point to massive shortcomings of Swiss banks when it comes to the prevention of money laundering".

"Apparently, Credit Suisse has a policy of looking the other way instead of asking difficult questions", Ferber said.

Switzerland's government did not comment on the EPP's call, only arguing that the country meets international standards when it comes to exchanges of tax information, as well as the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing, and corruption.

The claims followed Credit Suisse stating that it "strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank's purported business practices". The lender asserted that the matters uncovered by reporters were largely historical and based on "selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank's business conduct".

The bank underlined that it took allegations of due diligence failures seriously and would go ahead with its own investigations with an internal task force, referring to "robust data protection and data leakage prevention controls in place to protect" Credit Suisse's clients.
The financial institution hit out at what it described as a "concerted effort to discredit not only the bank but the Swiss financial marketplace as a whole, which has undergone significant changes over the last several years",

'Swiss Secrets' Leak

The response came amid a scandal over a whistleblower leaking data to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on more than 18,000 bank accounts, estimated to be worth more than $100 billion. The leak pertained to personal, shared, and corporate accounts, opened from the 1940s to the 2010s.
In a statement published by the newspaper, the source explained what was behind their decision to leak the information over a year ago, saying, "I believe that Swiss banking secrecy laws are immoral". According to the whistleblower, "the pretext of protecting financial privacy is merely a fig leaf covering the shameful role of Swiss banks as collaborators of tax evaders".
After Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the data with the non-profit journalist group Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, as well as almost 50 media organisations globally, including The Guardian, Le Monde, and The New York Times, they spent months meticulously studying the information.
Their probe suggested that Credit Suisse accounts had been used by clients involved in such serious crimes as torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, and corruption. According to the inquiry, account holders included a Yemeni spy chief, Venezuela's former Vice Energy Minister Nervis Villalobos, and the sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
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