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Credit Suisse to close Panama private banking office

Switzerland’s second largest bank, Credit Suisse, has confirmed that it is closing its private banking operations in Panama. The news comes just one month after the Panama Papers controversy.

“We will close our advisory office with around 20 employees,” a Credit Suisse spokesperson told the Swiss News Agency, confirming a report on the online news platform Finews.ch.

The spokesperson said the closure had been planned for a long time and had nothing to do with the Panama Papers scandal that has rocked the financial world.

A series of reports in April based on millions of documents leaked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how its lawyers worked with big banks, including Switzerland’s Credit Suisse and UBS Group AG, to create numerous offshore shell companies for world leaders, athletes and other rich clients.

According to the leaked documents, Credit Suisse Channel Islands Limited was listed as the third largest facilitator of offshore companies in the Panama Papers. Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse denied any links to illegal assets.

The spokesperson said the closure of the bank’s Panama operation was rather a “streamlining” of activities in Latin America, which represents “an important growth region for private banking and asset management."

The Swiss bank wants to strengthen its presence in other Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico.

Panama clients are mainly “on-shore”, the spokesperson said. They will be managed from other centres, such as Switzerland. According to Finews.ch, assets under management in Panama last year declined by 40%, with little hope for an improvement soon.

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