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Spy story Credit Suisse to review surveillance ordered on star who defected

Tidjane Thiam, left, CEO of Swiss bank Credit Suisse and Chairman of Swiss bank Credit Suisse Urs Rohner, right,

Pressure is mounting on Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam (left) and chairman Urs Rohner to provide an explanation.

(Keystone / Walter Bieri)

Credit Suisse’s board has launched an inquiry into the bank’s decision to hire private investigators to follow a high-flying executive who defected to arch-rival UBS.

Iqbal Khan, who ran Credit Suisse’s wealth management business before abruptly announcing his departure in July, has raised a case with Zurich’s cantonal prosecutor, which is investigating the legality of his employer’s actions.

Three men followed Mr Khan, 43, and his wife, through the streets of the city last Wednesday, culminating in a chase and a confrontation outside a restaurant behind the Swiss National Bank, German and Swiss newspapers reported this weekend. 

FT

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Mr Khan noticed a car closely tailing him and taking photos after he and his wife had dropped their six-year-old child at football practice. He attempted to evade it, resulting in a chase that ended in the city centre, according to people familiar with the matter.

When he could not shake off the men pursuing him, a verbal confrontation occurred, with Mr Khan exiting the car shouting “police, police” and attempting to take pictures of the car’s number plate, the people said. 

The private detectives tailing Mr Khan work for Investigo, an “investigations and security solutions” company based in Otelfingen in the country, according to another person with knowledge of the details.

"Inaccuracies" criticised

Investigo did not respond to emails or telephone calls to the details listed on its cached website and the live web page was listed as “under construction” on Monday.

The surveillance was ordered as Credit Suisse suspected he was tapping up colleagues and clients to join him at UBS, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.

An official at the Zurich public prosecutor’s office said it had “opened a criminal case for coercion and threat”. “We cannot provide further information because of the ongoing procedure.” Three arrests have been made by Zurich police.

In an internal memo sent to Credit Suisse staff today, a copy of which was seen by the FT, the bank said that there had been “significant inaccuracies” in the reports of events that had emerged over the weekend. The short memo gave no details as to what elements of the incident the bank disputes. 

“A detailed inquiry has been launched by the board of directors into these events and we are confident that the truth will emerge,” according to the memo signed by chief executive Tidjane Thiam and chairman Urs Rohner. 

High profile

The probe will be carried out by external consultants and lawyers and will determine which executives signed off on the surveillance and if any laws were broken, a person familiar with the process said.

A spokesperson for Mr Khan declined to comment. Credit Suisse declined to comment. 

Mr Khan’s sudden exit from Credit Suisse in July followed tensions with Mr Thiam over his profile and future, the Financial Times reported at the time. He was close to joining Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer as chief executive, but decided to join UBS at the last minute, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Last month he was named by UBS as the new co-head of its core wealth management unit, making him one of the leading internal contenders to succeed the bank’s chief executive Sergio Ermotti, now in his eighth year in charge.

Mr Khan is due to start in the role on October 1 and at present remains an employee of Credit Suisse.

Details of the incident first emerged on Friday, through the blog Inside ParadePlatzexternal link, which reports on gossip from the insular, elite world of Swiss banking. 

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019

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