The key criminal probes involving Swiss banks 

Two bankers who worked for Coutts in Zurich were fined for failing to report suspicious transactions linked to the 1MDB scandal. Keystone

Following recent details of fines handed out to former Swiss bankers involved in Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, other outstanding criminal probes still hang over the heads of Switzerland’s banks. 

This content was published on November 27, 2019 - 14:37

In the 1MDB case, a number of banks, notably BSI and Falcon, were punished for the part they played in channeling billions stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. The Sonntagszeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers recently uncovered previously undisclosed fines for ex-employees of the Swiss bank Coutts.  

These are other cases involving Swiss banks that are yet to be resolved: 

Petrobras bribery case 

In October, the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed its first Petrobras indictment with the Federal Criminal Court against a Swiss-Brazilian intermediary charged with money laundering and bribery. Construction company Odebrecht is accused of funneling hundreds of millions in bribes to Brazilian oil firm Petrobras via Swiss banks. 

PKB private bank was last year ordered to hand over CHF1.3 million in illegally gained assets

Some 60 criminal proceedings are pending at the OAGExternal link in connection to the Petrobras affair, including two against Swiss financial institutions. The Brazilian authorities have taken over 15 cases. In terms of ill-gotten gains, Switzerland has seized assets worth over CHF620 million (around $627 million) of which CHF390 million has been returned to Brazil.  

Mozambique ‘Tuna Bonds’ 

Swiss NGO Public Eye lodged a criminal complaint against the Credit Suisse bank in April over a $1 billion loan to Mozambique. This was part of an allegedly undeclared $2 billion series of loans, part of which was syphoned off into the pockets of corrupt officials. 

At least two former Credit Suisse bankers testified to a United States trial into the kickback scandal, . The bank itself, which is being sued by Mozambique, denies any wrongdoing. 

Credit Suisse ‘spygate’ affair 

Zurich police are investigating the events surrounding the shadowing of an ex-Credit Suisse executive by private investigators. The bank admitted making a grave error of judgement but blamed the decision to spy on Iqbal Khan on a single employee – who has since left Credit Suisse. 

The case took a tragic turn when a Credit Suisse contractor, who hired private detectives on behalf of the bank, took his own life. 

Raiffeisen insider trading  

Former CEO of the Raiffeisen banking group, Pierin Vincenz, is facing a criminal complaint from Zurich prosecutors and the bank itself into alleged financial misdealing. Vincenz has already been declared unfit to hold office by the Swiss financial regulator and has endured a spell in jail whilst under investigation. 

It is alleged that Vincenz mixed up his private finances with deals he struck for Raiffeisen to buy stakes in other companies. 

UBS in France 

UBS was the first Swiss bank to be charged with aiding and abetting US tax evaders – a case that sparked the end of Swiss banking secrecy, the demise of Wegelin private bank and a number of other convictions and settlements. 

It now faces an ongoing legal battle in France where it was fined a record €3.7 billion in February 2019 for similar offences. UBS has taken the gamble to appeal the verdict, opening the door for the legal dispute to continue potentially for years to come.  


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