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Australia probes Credit Suisse clients in international investigation

Australia probes Credit Suisse clients in international investigation

On March 30, Credit Suisse offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam were contacted by local authorities concerning client tax matters.

There were also search warrants and arrests made by authorities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Australia is the fifth nation in the international probe.

A statement by the ministry of revenue and financial services said more than 340 Australians with links to Swiss banking relationship managers alleged to have actively promoted and facilitated tax evasion schemes have been identified by the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) through this joint international investigation.

In the coming week, the SFCT will interview bank employees, taxpayers and lawyers as part of its investigation into whether Australians identified in the data have failed to comply with their tax obligations or been involved in criminal activity.

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, said information gathered throughout the course of international collaboration by the SFCT indicates that the Australians identified hold unnamed numbered accounts with a Swiss bank.

'The fact that these accounts are unnamed means that by their very nature they are likely to have been established to hide the identity of the owner,' Minister O’Dwyer said.

Of the 346 Australians identified, 23 have already come forward under the ATO’s Project DO IT or have been previously subject to ATO compliance action. 

'The SFCT is equipped with the resources, data-matching capability and the international and domestic intelligence-sharing relationships to uncover even the most intricately-planned tax evasion schemes.'

Project DO IT was a once-off opportunity for Australians to disclose their unreported offshore financial activities in exchange for reduced penalties.

Anyone found to have offshore tax arrangements now and into the future who did not disclose under Project DO IT will face the full force of the law, including significant financial penalties, and in cases of criminality, possible jail time.

Dutch investigations

Meanwhile, Dutch authorities have detained two suspects and confiscated and seized bank accounts, real estate, luxury cars, dozens of paintings, jewelery and gold related to the case.

The Netherlands is scanning data of thousands of account holders, it said in a statement.

Both Australia and the Netherlands did not name Credit Suisse in their statements.

Credit Suisse response

Over the weekend, Credit Suisse, which was reportedly surprised by the probe, put out a response, which was also carried as advertisements in several newspapers in Europe. 

The response is as below:

  • 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.

  • We strictly comply with all the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate.

  • As of 2011, we conducted a large review of our European business and requested clients to provide evidence of their tax compliance.

  • As a result of our review the bank terminated the relationship for clients who did not provide evidence that they paid taxes and declared their assets. This led to very significant asset outflows as we do not want to do business with clients who are unwilling to provide the required evidence.

  • We have made significant investments to implement the new international standard "Automatic Exchange of Information" in tax matters for our European locations effective April 1, 2017, which will foster even stronger transparency internationally.

  • Consistent with our zero tolerance policy, we continue to work closely with the local authorities in all matters and particularly in this new case.

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