After failing to prevent the laundering of money from Bulgarian drug sales, Credit Suisse today became the first Swiss bank to be found guilty of a corporate crime by Swiss authorities.
The case focused on Credit Suisse's role in accepting millions of euros in deposits from Bulgarian clients with dubious backgrounds between 2004 and 2008 while blatant red flags were ignored.
According to a statement from the Federal Criminal Court, "the court found deficiencies within the bank during the period in question both with regard to the management of client relations with the criminal organisation, as well as with regard to the monitoring of the implementation of anti-money laundering rules by management, the legal service and the compliance department."
The judges ruled that the bank disregarded numerous warning signs, such as the large sums of cash brought in suitcases and two murders, that suggested the funds may have come from criminal activity.
The lender was also ordered to pay the Swiss government €18.6 million in compensation in addition to a fine of SFr2 million.
The bank was being sought out for fines totaling SFr42mn (€40mn) by the prosecution.
Credit Suisse announced in a statement that it would challenge the court's decision. In accordance with changing regulatory standards, it has been "continuously testing its anti-money laundering framework" and has made improvements to it over time. The 'unfounded and unfair' decision would be appealed, according to Pampoulova-attorney. Bergomi's According to Grégoire Mangeat, "this judgment places the responsibility for money laundering on people without any serious training or experience."
This is the first time criminal charges have been brought against a bank with Swiss ownership and domicile.
Elena Pampoulova-Bergomi, a famous tennis player from Bulgaria and a former relationship manager at the bank, was also found guilty. Bergomi was found guilty of crimes involving money laundering.
The court heard testimony from the prosecution about how Pampoulova-Bergomi established a business connection with Evelin Banev, a former professional wrestler from Bulgaria who oversaw a significant cocaine smuggling enterprise in Europe.
Pampoulova-Bergomi frequently gathered suitcases of cash from members of Banev's inner circle, including one client who was fatally shot in front of a restaurant in Sofia in 2005.
Significantly, Pampoulova-Bergomi asserted that the bank neglected compliance for years in its rush to attract wealthy Eastern European clients.
In the meantime, Banev was not a defendant in the Swiss case but was found guilty of money laundering in Bulgaria in 2018 and drug trafficking in Italy in 2017.
He was detained in Ukraine last year and is currently awaiting extradition to Romania and Bulgaria where he will be charged with additional crimes.
The now-defunct Falcon bank, which was owned by Abu Dhabi and had operations in Switzerland, was the first bank to be convicted of money laundering offenses under the Swiss criminal code last year.
The decision was made at a Bellinzona session of Switzerland's highest court.
By fLEXI tEAM