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U.S. makes conspiracy charge stick against Credit Suisse

U.S. authorities have been investigating Credit Suisse for months for allegedly facilitating offshore tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers.

The case is part of a broader tug-of-war between American and Swiss authorities that has pitted Switzerland’s proud tradition of bank secrecy against U.S. efforts to crack down on undisclosed foreign accounts.

In this post, we will update you on the latest episode in this long-running conflict: Credit Suisse’s guilty plea to criminal tax charges.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the guilty plea this week. The AG said that the Swiss bank conspired to help thousands of clients conceal offshore accounts from the IRS over a period that spanned decades.

Credit Suisse must pay a whopping $2.6 billion to the U.S. Treasury. That is more than three times the amount paid by another major Swiss bank, UBS, to resolve tax evasion charges in 2009.

UBS was also forced to give up the names of thousands of its customers to U.S. authorities. Despite its guilty plea, Credit Suisse has not been forced to take that step. But unlike UBS, Credit Suisse did actually plead guilty.

The tactics that Credit Suisse used to effectuate offshore tax evasion paid great attention to logistical details. For example, the bank reportedly set up a special elevator at its Zurich airport branch to expedite access by clients to private compartments.

As we noted in our February 21 post, such cloak-and-dagger transactions have added a certain cinematic quality to the ongoing story of the U.S. offshore enforcement effort.

Source: CNN Money, "Credit Suisse pleads guilty in tax evasion case," Evan Perez, May 19, 2014

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