A journalistic investigation revealed the possibility that the Swiss bank Credit Suisse has become the vault of choice for criminals and corrupt individuals around the world, with deposited funds of around $100 billion.
The report, carried out by 50 media outlets together with the non-profit organization Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, states that the bank received deposits linked to dictators, human rights violators, drug traffickers and businessmen under international sanctions.
Among the most relevant findings, it is pointed out how a group of Venezuelan executives, accused of looting the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA and sanctioned by countries such as the United States, deposited large sums of money in Credit Suisse accounts.
Different accounts were also found with the names of a human trafficker from the Philippines, a Hong Kong stock exchange chief jailed for bribery, a billionaire who ordered the murder of his girlfriend, a Lebanese pop star, and numerous politicians accused of corruption in several countries, from Egypt to Ukraine.
The financial data that came to light relates to accounts held at the bank between the 1940s and 2010.
The European People’s Party (EPP), the group with the largest number of seats in the European Parliament, called on February 21 for a review of Swiss banking practices and the possible inclusion of the country on the European Union’s red list for money laundering.
Meanwhile, Credit Suisse reacted to the leak by saying that it “strongly” rejects the accusations and assured that the information disclosed was taken out of context and corresponds to past events.
The reports are based on “partial, inaccurate or selective information taken out of context,” insisted the bank, which pointed out that the disclosed accounts are already “closed or in the process of being closed.”
Credit Suisse: The Venezuelan money laundering vault
It was in 2017 when Credit Suisse announced that it would not provide services to people related to the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship, and assured that it would not buy bonds in order not to finance Venezuela’s authoritarian regime; however, through the years the financial entity safeguarded billions of dollars that corrupt officials stole from the South American country.
According to the journalistic investigation, the bank allegedly disregarded alerts from its own employees about “suspicious activities” in the finances of its clients, including those accused of corruption surrounding Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.
More than 20 Venezuelan nationals linked to that company, including Nervis Villalobos, former Vice Minister of Energy under the government of the late Hugo Chávez, had accounts in the Swiss bank for at least $273 million.
The leak indicated that Villalobos opened an account in September 2011 and in less than two years he had accumulated assets worth $10.3 million dollars. The former minister is under investigation in Spain for alleged money laundering from the looting of the state oil company.
Villalobos is currently under arrest in Spain awaiting extradition to the United States, where he faces several corruption charges.
Another name that came to light in the leak was that of Luis Carlos de León, former finance director of Electricidad de Caracas. De León admitted in 2018 before an American court that he had been part of a corruption scheme within PDVSA and that the money would have ended up in a Swiss bank account in which he managed to consign assets close to $20 million
Former Spanish ambassador also kept Venezuelan money at Credit Suisse
In 2020, it became known that the former Spanish ambassador to Venezuela, Raúl Morodo, who is involved in a corruption scheme after laundering money through the state-owned oil company PDVSA, also opened millionaire bank accounts in Switzerland, especially in Credit Suisse.
The authorities of the Swiss country confirmed to the National Court of Spain that the family of the former ambassador has had active accounts for years and with millionaire amounts in that bank. In fact, the former ambassador’s son, Alejo Morodo, received notifications from the bank after closing his account in 2016 because the million-dollar sums that were coming in were commissions from the state oil company PDVSA, which the US Justice Department has linked to the laundering of money from drug trafficking.
Other significant cases
According to The New York Times, the king and queen of Jordan had secret bank accounts worth hundreds of millions of dollars at Credit Suisse. So did the children of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ousted president, and the business tycoons who prospered during his 30-year rule.
Also, in the same bank other accounts were linked to spying chiefs from Egypt, Jordan and Yemen who cooperated with the United States and have been accused of human rights abuses.
There is also the case of the Swedish citizen Stefan Sederholm, a programmer who opened a bank account in 2008 and was implicated in a serious case of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Philippines.
Sederholm is serving a sentence in the Asian country and despite his conviction, his account remained open even two years after he was convicted.
Another case is that of Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an Egyptian businessman who in 2009 was found guilty of the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. Although Moustafa was found guilty of the crime, it took five years before his Credit Suisse account was closed.