Credit Suisse punished for corruption and spy cases

From one crisis to the next: a difficult time for the Swiss bank. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The Credit Suisse bank has been fined for its role in a corruption scandal in Mozambique. It has also been reprimanded by Swiss authorities over a 2019 corporate espionage case.

This content was published on October 20, 2021 - 10:22

A verdict by US and British authorities on Tuesday ruled that Credit Suisse will have to  pay some $475 million (CH439 million) to resolve bribery and fraud charges relating to a Mozambican corruption scandal.

The bank will pay a $175 million criminal fine to the US Justice Department, $99 million to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and $200 million to the British authorities. It will also forgive $200 million of debt owed by Mozambique.

The charges related to the almost $1 billion in bond offerings and a syndicated loan which Credit Suisse helped to arrange between 2013 and 2016, to finance a state tuna fishing industry and to develop maritime security in Mozambique.

Much of the proceeds of the so-called “tuna bonds” were diverted via kickbacks to Credit Suisse bankers and Mozambique officials. Credit Suisse fraudulently misled investors and violated US bribery laws, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Reacting to the verdict, the bank said it was “satisfied with the completion of proceedings”. Credit Suisse’s European subsidiary has also agreed with the Swiss financial regulator to appoint an independent third party to monitor its transactions and risk controls.

Corporate spying

In a second announcement on Tuesday, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA said it had found “serious organisational shortcomings” in an inquiry into a spying case at Credit Suisse which broke out two years ago.

The corporate espionage scandal centred on the bank’s practice of snooping on high-level members of its board, as well as several former employees and third parties abroad. The revelations ultimately triggered the departure of CEO Tidjane Thiam.

Wrapping up an audit that began in 2020, FINMA said it had found serious flaws in the bank’s corporate governance, with decisions to carry out seven “observations” taken “informally and without comprehensible reasons being given”.

FINMA “reprimanded two individuals in writing and opened enforcement proceedings against three further individuals”, it wrote. It did not name the individuals.

Referring to the spy case, Credit Suisse said it had “taken decisive steps to strengthen its relevant governance and processes”.

The bank still faces a civil trial over the Mozambique case brought by creditors in London. The English High Court is scheduled to begin a trial in the matter in October 2023, reports Bloomberg news.

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