Brazilian police detain Swiss banker

Credit Suisse headquarters in Zurich have confirmed that one of their employees is in custody in Brazil. Credit Suisse

Police in Brazil have arrested a director of a local private banking unit of the Credit Suisse Group suspected of money laundering.

This content was published on March 24, 2006 - 21:57

The authorities launched an investigation into several company executives in São Paulo amid allegations that they illegally transferred large sums of money overseas for Brazilian clients.

A Swiss citizen was detained at the airport while trying to leave Brazil for Switzerland, federal police said in a statement on Friday.

Earlier in the week police searched the private banking offices of Credit Suisse in São Paulo as well as several homes of company executives, to confiscate documents and computers.

Six other company executives, including four other Swiss nationals, had their passports seized under a judicial order, but they were not detained, according to police.

"Operation Switzerland"

The authorities started an investigation into Credit Suisse last December as part of a federal money laundering probe, codenamed "Operation Switzerland" following anonymous tip-offs of alleged wrongdoing.

"Strong indications were obtained that the suspects were involved in an illegal manner, providing the overseas remittance of large sums of suspicious origin," the statement said.

The main suspect is in charge of investments for wealthy clients in Brazil at the Credit Suisse unit.

He was reportedly not on the premises during the police raid but tried to fly back to Zurich - the headquarters of the Credit Suisse Group. He had apparently arrived in Brazil from Switzerland a week before.

He was held on a temporary detention order in São Paulo until Sunday to prevent him from leaving Brazil.

The order has been extended for another five days, according to police officials.

Trade office

Credit Suisse confirmed that one of the company's employees was in the custody of Brazilian authorities, but the firm had not been officially notified about any charges.

Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-largest bank, stressed that its Brazilian unit under scrutiny is a trade office of its private banking division, but not its lucrative investment banking business.

It added that the Credit Suisse office was cooperating with the authorities to "understand the nature of the investigation".

A spokeswoman for the São Paulo office declined to give any details.

"We are closed today. Thank you for your call," she told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Thierry Ogier in São Paulo

Key facts

Credit Suisse's private banking unit, one of three major sectors, provides comprehensive advice, investment products and services tailored to wealthy individuals globally.
Wealth management solutions include tax planning, pension planning, life insurance solutions, wealth and inheritance advice, trusts and foundations.
As of December 31, 2004, the private banking segment had approximately 12,000 employees worldwide, of which approximately 2,600 were relationship managers and financial advisors.

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In brief

The Brazilian authorities have launched a probe into alleged links between illegal funding practices of political parties and organised crime as a result of the collaboration of illegal money traders with police.

Federal police have opened an investigation into 18 banks.

Credit Suisse has not been on the list of companies under investigation. The police raid on the Credit Suisse private banking unit in São Paulo earlier this week came in the wake of a tip-off by a former employee.

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