Some of the accounts included one belonging to a Yemeni spy chief implicated in torture, a Serbian drug lord, and the sons of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Swiss federal prosecutors launched a criminal probe against perpetrators of last year’s Credit Suisse’s data leak, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said on Sunday.
The data of some 18,000 accounts was leaked in February last year to Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung and involved accounts of rights abusers, fraudsters, criminals, and businessmen.
To date, the identity of the person behind the leak, widely dubbed as “Suisse Secrets”, remains unknown.
Citing Swiss media, OCCRP said the court is now going after the whistleblower rather than probing the allegations made against the bank.
“Switzerland is renowned for enforcing perhaps the world’s strictest banking privacy laws. Article 47 of the country’s 1934 Banking Act states that anyone who ‘discloses information about bank customers to other people’ can be punished with up to three years in prison,” OCCRP said in a statement.
OCCRP further accused Switzerland of serving as “a safe haven for criminal finances”, noting that the country has failed to reform its banking privacy laws. It said the bank has now filed a complaint to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPC).
The Swiss court opened the investigation into “economic intelligence services, violation of business secrecy and violation of banking secrecy.”
The probe needed the federal government’s approval given that the espionage claims are a “political infraction.” OCCRP said that the federal department already consented to the proceedings.
“If the whistleblower is found, he or she may face prosecution for economic espionage,” OCCRP said.
The bank, the second-largest in Switzerland, has yet to issue a statement on the matter, though it previously issued a statement confirming that at least 90% of the accounts were closed or soon to be shut down.
It also accused the media reports of appearing “to discredit not only the bank but the Swiss financial marketplace as a whole, which has undergone significant changes over the last several years.”
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) became Credit Suisse’s second-largest shareholder after doubling its stakes, reaching just below 7% as the Swiss entity seeks to garner more investors, The Financial Times reported last month.
The leak of accounts of Credit Suisse’s clients, some under sanctions, had raised eyebrows globally and was widely believed to further harm the bank’s reputation as it dealt with major post-pandemic losses.
Some of the accounts included one owned by a Yemeni spy chief implicated in torture, a Serbian drug lord, and the sons of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
“I’ve too often seen criminals and corrupt politicians who can afford to keep on doing business as usual, no matter what the circumstances, because they have the certainty that their ill-gotten gains will be kept safe and always within their reach,” Paul Radu , OCCRP co-founder, said last year.