Credit Suisse charged in Bulgarian money laundering probe

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Swiss prosecutors charged Credit Suisse on Thursday over alleged failings related to a Bulgarian crime ring involving top-level wrestlers accused of laundering cocaine trafficking proceeds more than a decade ago.

Switzerland’s attorney general said in a statement that an unnamed former Credit Suisse manager and two alleged members of the criminal organization had also been indicted in the Swiss Federal Criminal Court.

“(Credit Suisse) is accused of failing to take all the organizational measures that were reasonable and required to prevent the laundering of assets belonging to and under the control of the criminal organization,” it said.

The trafficking dated to between 2004 and 2008 and the fall of communism in Bulgaria, when top-level wrestlers lacking financial support turned to criminal organizations for help, the attorney general’s office said.

Credit Suisse said it “unreservedly” rejected the allegations and it was convinced its ex-employee was innocent.

“Credit Suisse takes note with astonishment of the decision…to bring charges,” it said.

Switzerland’s second largest bank said its anti-money laundering measures have since been improved, adding that the maximum fine Switzerland’s top criminal court could impose was 5 million Swiss francs ($5.7 million).

The attorney general’s office said that the wrestler involved had since been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in several European countries.

“One of (the wrestlers) built up and managed a hierarchical and compartmentalized criminal structure which aimed to make money for its members by trafficking in cocaine,” it said.

The proceeds were then paid into accounts in Switzerland, where the money was laundered to buy Swiss and Bulgarian real estate, the attorney general said.

It alleged that Credit Suisse acted as a bank for these activities, adding that the indicted former bank executive oversaw transactions worth more than 140 million Swiss francs for the group. ($1 = 0.8832 Swiss francs)

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