Big bank’s dealings with ‘strongmen and spies’ exposed

Feb 20, 2022 | BUSINESS

Leaked data exposed accounts of thousands of Credit Suisse clients all across the globe

Credit Suisse reportedly served a motley client roster that included heads of state and spy chiefs, as well as sanctioned individuals and allegedly corrupt officials, according to a rare data leak from the Swiss banking giant.

The revelations are based on data from more than 18,000 bank accounts that held upward of $100 billion combined between the 1940s and the 2010s. The information was leaked by a self-described whistleblower to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and shared with other media outlets, which nicknamed the trove “Suisse secrets.”

Account holders included Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, according to the New York Times, one of the outlets that received the data. The Mubarak brothers allegedly held six accounts, including one that amassed $196 million as of 2003.

Spymasters who stashed money at Credit Suisse reportedly included the late Omar Suleiman of Egypt and Jordan’s Saad Kheir. The latter started compiling millions of dollars at Credit Suisse after the US invaded Iraq in 2003. In 1985, when then-Pakistani intelligence chief Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan was helping to funnel billions of dollars in aid to Mujahideen militants in Afghanistan, a Credit Suisse account was apparently opened in the names of his sons.

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A businessman who had been sanctioned by US and European governments for his ties to then-Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe also was on the bank’s client roster. Another controversial account holder was Nervis Villalobos, Venezuela’s former energy minister. Credit Suisse in 2011 opened an account for Villalobos, holding as much as $10 million, despite knowing of corruption allegations against him, the Times said. In fact, the bank allegedly hosted 25 accounts holding a combined $270 million for people accused of being involved in a conspiracy related to Venezuela’s state oil company.

Bank spokeswoman Candice Sun told the newspaper that many of the accounts referenced in the data leak date back decades, “to a time where laws, practices and expectations of financial institutions were very different from where they are now.” Many of the accounts cited in the leak have been closed, she said, and with those that remain active, “we are comfortable that appropriate due diligence, reviews and other control-related steps were taken, including pending account closures.”

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