Six Swiss banks carpeted over links with former Nigerian dictator

The Federal Banking Commission has criticised six Swiss banks - including Credit Suisse - for serious "violations" stemming from their business dealings with the regime of the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha.

This content was published on September 4, 2000 minutes

In a statement issued on Monday, the commission said the six banks had failed to comply with rules governing "suspect transactions" in their dealings with the Abacha regime.

The commission recommended that action be taken on both the "personnel and the organisational level" to address what it said were serious "violations and organisational shortcomings".

It said three of the six banks were part of the Credit Suisse group, including Credit Suisse itself, as well as Bank Hofmann and Bank Leu. The other three were identified as Credit Agricole Indosuez, Union Bancaire Privée and MM Warburg Bank.

The banks were identified as part of a report from the commission, following investigations at 19 banks that had business relations with the Abacha regime.

Switzerland has frozen $670 million in response to Nigeria's search for funds stashed abroad by Abacha. Nigeria claims Abacha also had accounts in several other countries, including Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Britain, Belgium, Germany and France.

Of the 19 banks investigated, the commission found that five had "fully complied with their obligations of diligence", which include "know your customer" rules as well as mechanisms to identify and examine suspect transactions.

The commission found violations and shortcomings at all the other banks, but only recommended that action be taken in the case of the six.

Despite the failures identified at the six banks, it found that all 19 banks had complied with their legal obligation to report suspicions of money laundering to the authorities as soon as their were sufficient indications that the funds may be of criminal origin.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse, who did not wish to be identified, told swissinfo that the bank had since tightened up monitoring procedures. The spokesperson added that all those involved in dealings with Abacha's regime had since left the bank.

In a statement, Credit Suisse said it had first blown the whistle on the Abacha regime's dealings with Swiss banks and that it had passed this information on to the Federal Banking Commission.

Releasing the report, the chairman of the banking commission, Kurt Hauri, called for "international regulatory action with respect to the handling of corruption proceeds by financial institutions".

He added that Switzerland is "not the only financial centre faced with the challenge of fighting the laundering of corruption proceeds".

swissinfo with agencies

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