Credit Suisse maintains its “zero tolerance” for tax evasion

Credit Suisse, which last week confirmed that it is under investigation by tax authorities in the UK, France and the Netherlands, has launched a European press campaign insisting that it has “zero tolerance” for tax evasion.

The bank followed up adverts in leading British papers on Sunday with a pan-European campaign yesterday that declared: “Credit Suisse applies a strict zero tolerance policy and wishes to conduct business with clients that have paid their taxes and fully declared their assets.” It added that the group complies “with all applicable laws” in areas where it operates.

At the end of last month, authorities in Europe and Australia announced a coordinated tax fraud and money laundering investigation involving hundreds of potential suspects across five countries.

Over the weekend, Credit Suisse’s head of international wealth management, Iqbal Khan, told the Bloomberg news agency that he understood the investigation was  focused on the bank’s clients. He said that he was surprised by the timing of the probe since Credit Suisse had “taken a proactive stance” against tax evasion in Europe.

However, the claim was at odds with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in the UK, which stated that “senior employees” of a global financial institution were under investigation.

Credit Suisse has confirmed that local authorities searched its offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam last Thursday and it is cooperating with the probe.

The latest investigation is a setback for Credit Suisse’s chief executive officer (CEO), Tidjane Thiam, who is overseeing its attempts to recover from various legacy issues and trading losses. In January, the group agreed a US$5.3bn penalty with the US Department of Justice to settle an investigation into its involvement in selling toxic mortgage debt before the 2008 financial crisis. Deutsche Bank agreed a US$7.2bn settlement with the DoJ to resolve similar litigation.

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