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Swiss prosecutors investigate Geneva private bank over Brazilian ‘Car Wash’ probe

A woman holds a placard ["Car Wash I support you"] during a rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to show support for the Java Lato ["Car Wash"] corruption investigation, September 6, 2020. Keystone / Fernando Bizerra

Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into Geneva-based Banque Cramer & Cie as part of a wider corruption probe into Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and construction firm Odebrecht.

This content was published on October 9, 2020 - 09:54
Keystone-SDA/AFP/Reuters/sb

The Swiss Attorney General’s office (MPC) confirmed on Thursday that it had around 40 criminal proceedings pending in the Petrobras-Odebrecht affair, of which three are against financial institutions in Switzerland. The latest is against Banque Cramer & Cie, it told AFP on Thursday, confirming an earlier report by online site Gotham City.

The probe was opened on July 1 based on information "resulting from other criminal proceedings" in the context of this vast Brazilian scandal.

The prosecutor’s office said it suspected a “lack of internal organisation within the bank that would not have enabled it to prevent the commission of the money laundering offence".

Banque Cramer declined to comment.

"Car Wash"

The Brazilian “Car Wash” scandal is one of Brazil’s worst-ever corporate corruption scandals. It began in 2014, focusing on contracting graft at state-run oil company Petrobras, though its scope quickly expanded. The affair has dragged in politicians, companies, banks and prosecutors from several countries, including Switzerland.

Swiss prosecutors said a year ago they had opened an investigation of private bank J. Safra Sarasin as part of the probe.

In February 2018, Switzerland’s financial regulator found Lugano-headquartered PKB private bank guilty of breaching money laundering rules in relation to the Petrobras and Odebrecht Brazilian corruption scandal. The bank was ordered to hand over CHF1.3 million ($1.4 million) in illicitly gained assets.

A Swiss court in February 2020 handed down its first Swiss conviction relating to the Brazilian Petrobras-Odebrecht scandal. A Swiss-Brazilian man was found guilty of complicity in bribing foreign agents and of money laundering offences in Switzerland, Brazil and Portugal.

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