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Credit Suisse has confirmed it is the subject of tax investigations launched in the UK, France and the Netherlands, setting back Switzerland’s attempts to clean up its image as a haven for tax evaders.
The Swiss bank said on Friday it was cooperating with authorities after its offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam were contacted by local officials “concerning client tax matters”.
However, the investigations threatened an international row, with the Swiss public prosecutor expressing “astonishment” at the actions taken by Dutch authorities.
Statements by authorities in the UK and Netherlands did not mention Credit Suisse by name but suggested the inquiries were widespread with the potential to expand further.
The UK’s HMRC tax authority said the “first phase” of its investigation focused on “senior employees within the institution along with a number of its customers”.
HMRC added: “The international reach of this investigation sends a clear message that there is no hiding place for those seeking to evade tax.”
Dutch prosecutors said they seized jewellery, paintings and even gold ingots as part of a sweeping investigation into tax evasion and money laundering in the Netherlands. They added that the sums involved amounted to “many millions” of lost tax revenue.
In a tweet showing the haul from a search, Dutch police said: “searches during an international day of action in connection with an investigation into tax evasion at a Swiss bank”(see below).
In 2014, Credit Suisse pleaded guilty in the US to an “extensive and wide-ranging conspiracy” to help US clients evade taxes and agreed to pay about $2.6bn in fines.
In its statement on Friday, the Swiss attorney general’s offices said it was “astonished at the way this operation has been organised with the deliberate exclusion of Switzerland. The normal customs and rules of international cooperation and legal assistance procedures have apparently not been observed. The federal public prosecutor expects a written explanation from the relevant leading Dutch authorities, and is considering further steps.”
Reporting by Ralph Atkins in Zurich, Duncan Robinson in Brussels, Caroline Binham and Vanessa Houlder in London and Laura Noonan in Dublin