Credit Suisse faces anti-money laundering charges linked to Bulgarian mafia

Credit Suisse has been drawn into a criminal investigation by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland into money laundering related to a Bulgarian mafia allegedly responsible for trafficking drugs.

The Swiss bank said in a statement on 17 December it “takes note with astonishment” the decision of the court to bring charges against it for a long-term investigation into its role for allegedly laundering money for Bulgarian clients accused of trafficking illegal narcotics on a “grand scale”.

The OAG said in a statement that Credit Suisse has been accused of “failing to take all the organisational measures that were reasonable and required to prevent the laundering of assets belonging to and under the control of the criminal organisation”.

A former Credit Suisse employee has also been charged.

“The bank rejects the allegations about supposed organizational deficiencies and intends to defend itself vigorously,” Credit Suisse said in its statement.

Drug Trafficking, Bulgarian Mafia

The case is unusual not just because of the nature of the allegations, but because of the length of the investigation. Credit Suisse was first accused by the OAG of failures in its anti-money laundering processes in 2013, and the case stretches back to 2008 when it first started criminal proceedings against some of the bank’s clients.

The case reportedly relates to money laundering accusations against a Bulgarian drug trafficking group.

The OAG’s case claims that former top Bulgarian athletes were drawn into drugs gangs in various guises as a new source of income after the fall of communism in the country from the start of the 2000s.

“One of them built up and managed a hierarchical and compartmentalised criminal structure which aimed to make money for its members by trafficking in cocaine and laundering the proceeds of these activities,” the OAG said.

The organisation was made up of a number of former Bulgarian wrestlers, and a former bank employee’s association with the gang allegedly relates to his familiarity with the sport. The OAG’s investigation into the alleged money laundering activity was conducted between 2008 and 2015 and involves a complex web of players including a Credit Suisse executive, the head of the mafia organisation – and his ex-wife and “concubine” – as well as other members of his family and high-ranking members of the gang.

 The OAG alleges that the gang used small denomination bank euro bank notes paid into Swiss bank accounts and later used to buy real estate and other assets in an attempt to disguise the proceeds from its drug-dealing operations.

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Credit Suisse has strongly denied the allegations, saying it “unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations raised against it and is convinced that its former employee is innocent”.

The bank said that its “anti-money laundering framework has been significantly expanded and strengthened over the last twelve or more years, especially in recent times, in accordance with regulatory developments. Generating compliant growth in line with all legal and regulatory requirements has been and remains an absolute priority for Credit Suisse.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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