Following an extensive investigation by the United States Justice Department, Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse pleaded guilty on Monday to aiding U.S. clients evade taxes. Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General stated that the bank was involved in an “extensive and wide-ranging conspiracy” to help U.S. taxpayers avoid tax liabilities on their offshore income. He added that for decades, Credit Suisse “knowingly and willfully” ran an “illegal cross-border banking business which assisted thousands of clients hide their income from the Internal Revenue Service.
Some of the ingenious methods that the bank used include whisking clients via a special elevator at the Zurich airport branch to private banking suite, where the clients could take care of their banking hastily before continuing their Alpine ski vacation. The bank erased account records, hid transactions, and skirted compliance with U.S. tax law. Since 2009, the United States has investigated several banks such as UBS and Wegelin on related charges. Both banks paid extensive fines- UBS had to shell out $780 million and Wegelin had to pay $74 million. The latter ceased its operations since the crackdown. Credit Suisse also restricted their services to US clients; however, some managers from Credit Suisse helped clients in moving their assets to other offshore banks.
The bank is expected to pay $2.6 billion in fines to the U.S. Federal government and New York financial regulators. While Credit Suisse is not directly disclosing their clients’ names, the Deputy Attorney General James Cole has stated that the information received from the bank would help the US Department of Justice in finding specific clients. The bank received assurances from state and federal regulators that the bank’s operations will continue in the United States. The bank’s chief executive Brady Dougan and chairman Urs Rohner are expected to keep their jobs. Thus, the prosecution is not expected to harm the bank tremendously.
Pasadena Tax Attorney, Vic Abajian, who currently represents several Credit Suisse account holders, says it may not be too late to make a disclosure to the IRS under the 2012 OVDP. He received pre-clearance letters from the IRS as recently as April 2014 for those holding Credit Suisse accounts. He warns, however, that accounts holders will be disqualified from the amnesty program once Credit Suisse provides names to the IRS.