Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European People’s Party (EPP) Group in the European Parliament called on the European Commission today to re-evaluate Switzerland’s banking practices and to consider placing the country on the bloc’s money-laundering blacklist.
The EPP’s call comes as media reported over the weekend on a massive leak of data from Switzerland’s second-largest lender, Credit Suisse, which appears to reveal a history of accounts belonging to disreputable clients, including global human rights abuses and international businessmen under sanctions.
A single whistleblower shared the account data with Süddeutsche Zeitung, which, in turn, shared it with leading global media outlets including the New York Times, the Guardian, and Le Monde. The data covers more than 18,000 accounts, which together hold more than 100 billion dollars in assets, and which raise serious questions about the Swiss lender’s management practices and its due diligence.
“Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and insinuations about the bank’s purported business practices”, the bank said on Sunday evening, in response to the media reports. “The matters presented are predominantly historical”, it said, claiming that the news accounts were “based on partial, inaccurate or selective information taken out of context.”
Today, EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, issued its statement urging the European Commission to consider placing Switzerland on the so-called “high-risk jurisdiction” list, which includes 21 countries found lacking adequate measures to prevent money laundering, among them Iran, Myanmar, Syria, and North Korea.
The EPP Group’s chief spokesman on economic affairs, MEP Markus Ferber, said that the leak indicates Swiss banks also have “massive shortcomings” when it comes to dealing with money laundering.
“Bank privacy laws must not become a pretext to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion”, Ferber declared, claiming that Credit Suisse appeared to have a policy of “looking the other way” instead of asking difficult questions.
“European and Swiss banks have close ties, anti-money laundering deficiencies in the Swiss banking sector therefore also pose a problem for the European financial sector. When Swiss banks fail to apply international anti-money laundering standards properly, Switzerland itself becomes a high-risk jurisdiction”, Ferber asserted. He suggested that the EC should consider adding Switzerland to the blacklist the next time it is updated.