Credit Suisse ‘shredded documents’ for US tax evaders

by Calum Fuller

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26 Feb 2014

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Credit Suisse in London

CREDIT SUISSE BANK shredded documents and made false claims in US visa applications in order to help around 22,000 American customers avoid taxes, alleges a withering report produced by a US congressional committee.

The bank also helped clients establish offshore shell entities in order to shelter cash from tax authorities, while customers were also aided in structuring transactions to fall below $10,000 (£5,991) so as to avoid government detection, the Financial Times reports.

The 175-page report claimed an office was created at Zurich Airport holding more than 10,000 US accounts under the code name SIO85. At its peak, the assets of the more than 22,000 customers totalled as much as $12bn.

Credit Suisse is one of 14 banks under investigation by the US authorities as part of a probe into Swiss lenders believed to have helped US clients avoid taxes.

In January last year, Switzerland's oldest private bank Wegelin closed permanently after pleading guilty to helping Americans evade taxes through secret accounts. Established in 1741, it admitted that for more than ten years it helped dozens of wealthy Americans evade US taxes by concealing more than $1.2bn (£740m) from the Internal Revenue Service.

As part of its guilty plea - the first by a foreign bank to tax charges and the first time that a foreign bank has been indicted for facilitating tax evasion by US taxpayers - Wegelin will pay around $20m to the IRS and pay a $22.05m fine.

"The battle against tax havens using secrecy laws to facilitate US tax evasion has bogged down, causing a huge loss to our Treasury," committee chair Carl Levin said.

"The Credit Suisse case study shows how a Swiss bank aided and abetted US tax evasion, not only from behind a veil of secrecy in Switzerland, but also on US soil by sending Swiss bankers here to open hidden accounts."

Credit Suisse has been approached for comment.

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