Federal police in Brazil have searched the offices of the private banking unit of Credit Suisse in Sao Paulo, the Swiss bank has confirmed.This content was published on March 23, 2006 - 15:10
Investigators were trying to find out if the bank's wealthy clients were sending money out of the country without declaring the transfers to the authorities.
A Credit Suisse spokeswoman said the police had been on the bank's premises on Tuesday, but admitted she did not know why the raid was carried out or what the investigators were looking for.
Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-largest bank after UBS, says it has been fully cooperating with the authorities, but has declined to comment on the investigation itself.
Brazilian police said they locked safes at the Sao Paolo offices and got a court order preventing executives from leaving the country.
According to local media, the police spent eight hours searching the premises and computer hard drives were seized. The investigation was allegedly launched late last year.
Federal investigators and tax authorities have raided several prominent businesses in Brazil recently, including Banco Santos, a bank that eventually closed down, and Daslu, a luxury shopping emporium.
Several other Swiss corporations have come under the spotlight this week in Brazil. Engineering group ABB confirmed on Tuesday that it was under investigation as part of a probe into alleged price fixing by a number of multinationals.
The Brazilian justice ministry announced that it had opened an investigation into a suspected price-fixing cartel involving manufacturers of gas-insulated switchgear.
Other companies said to be involved include France's Areva, Germany's Siemens and three Japanese firms.
On Wednesday, Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta was handed a SFr600,000 ($461,000) fine for planting transgenic seeds close to a protected nature reserve.
The Basel-based company strongly denies any wrongdoing and says it will appeal against the penalty imposed by Brazil's environmental protection agency, Ibama.
The fine relates to the company's test site for genetically modified (GM) soya bean and corn in southern Brazil, which has been occupied by hundreds of peasant activists for over a week.
Ibama says Syngenta broke the law by planting 30 acres of transgenic soy six kilometres from a national park, inside a ten-kilometre exclusion zone.
Syngenta claimed that the GM crop is outside the protected area, adding that it had all the necessary legal permits for its experiments.
swissinfo with agencies
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.
At that time, the unit – including the separately-branded Bank Leu, Clariden Bank, Bank Hofmann and BGP Banca di Gestione Patrimoniale - had SFr539.1 billion ($412 billion) of assets under management.
Switzerland exported goods and services worth SFr1.078 billion to Brazil in 2004.
Imports from Brazil were worth SFr348 million.
Brazil is by far Switzerland's biggest trade partner in Latin America.
Direct Swiss investments in Brazil were worth SFr3.86 billion at the end of 2003.
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