Credit Suisse has become the first of Switzerland’s domestic banks to be convicted of a corporate crime in any of the country’s own courts, after a judge today found the Zurich financier guilty of failing to prevent laundering of Bulgarian drug money.
A court in the southern Swiss city of Bellinzona fined the bank 2m Swiss Francs (£1.7m) and ordered it to pay €18.6m (£16m) in compensation to the Swiss government, over its part in failing to stop the money laundering scheme.
The court also found ex-professional tennis player and former Credit Suisse relationship manager Elena Pampoulova-Bergomi guilty of money laundering offences, over claims she used her role in the bank to help launder a Bulgarian trafficking gang’s drug profits.
Prosecutors said Pampoulova-Bergomi built a relationship with Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang leader and ex-professional wrestler Evelin Banev, as they claimed the Credit Suisse exec took suitcases of drugs money from those in Banev’s circle – including one individual was shot dead in a Sofia restaurant in 2005 – and laundered it through the bank.
The court heard the drugs gang used a practice called smurfing, through which they divided their profits into small sum deposits that would go under the radar of the bank’s money laundering thresholds, as prosecutors said Pampoulova-Bergomi helped the gang launder 146m Swiss Francs.
Credit Suisse said it now plans to appeal its guilty verdict and has previously disputed the illegal origins of the money, in claiming Banev operated legitimate businesses in construction, leasing, and hotels.
In a statement, Credit Suisse said it “is continuously testing its anti-money laundering framework and has been strengthening it over time, in accordance with evolving regulatory standards.”