A Swiss criminal court opened trial proceedings on Monday against Credit Suisse, accusing the bank of failing to do enough to stop money laundering linked to drug trafficking by a Bulgarian criminal organization. Associated Press reports that the gang employed a wrestler who once hauled millions in currency by car to Switzerland.
The names of the defendants have not been made public, to protect their privacy, but Swiss prosecutors identified Credit Suisse by name in an indictment announced in December 2020.
The charge, which centers on a former manager at the Swiss bank and two members of the criminal ring, follows a years-long investigation into allegations of wrongdoing that apparently took place between 2004 and 2008.
According to AP, the case against the bank revolves around charges that it “did not take all necessary measures to halt the infraction of money laundering” by one of its employees.
Credit Suisse has denied any wrongdoing, saying during the hearing on Monday that it “unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations in this legacy matter raised against it and is convinced that its former employee is innocent.” The bank added that it “will defend itself vigorously in court.”
The Swiss attorney general’s office said that, after the fall of communism, top-level athletes in Bulgaria “turned towards other sources of income, and numerous wrestlers received approaches from mafia clans.” Thus, one unnamed wrestler aimed to cash in by trafficking tons of cocaine through “mules” from South America to Europe by air and sea and then laundering the profits.
The proceeds from the drug sales entered Swiss bank accounts from 2004 to at least 2007 and were used to buy real estate in Bulgaria and Switzerland in particular, court proceedings show.
Prosecutors said that the wrestler’s “main offense was committed in February 2006, when he transported the equivalent of more than four million Swiss francs (over $4 million) in small denomination notes hidden in his car from Barcelona to Switzerland.”
They also said that a former Credit Suisse executive in charge of business relations with the criminal organization carried out transactions for the ring despite “strong indications that the funds were of criminal origin.”
The executive is accused of preventing the identification of the origin of the funds, which ultimately involved transactions of more than 140 million Swiss francs (about $150 million).
Credit Suisse has consistently rejected the allegations and has said the court could order the “disgorgement of profits” and a maximum fine of about $5 million.
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