By Elizabeth Hearst
Swiss Bank Credit Suisse will be investigated by the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office amid allegations that the bank facilitated dealings with 2,600 Belgian clients suspected of using the accounts to evade taxes.
A spokesperson told The Brussels Times: “A criminal investigation has been opened against Credit Suisse for money laundering and unlawfully acting as a financial intermediary, as well as against Belgian customers who have not yet undergone tax regularisation”.
According to Bloomberg, Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for Belgium’s Federal Prosecutor’s office, said that investigation is at the fact-gathering stage and it is uncertain that it will result in formal charges.
The investigation surrounds the leaking of documents that detail 2,600 Belgian clients of the bank between an eleven-year period from 2003 to 2014. In a statement, Credit Suisse said the bank “applies a strict zero-tolerance policy and wishes to conduct business with clients who have paid their taxes and fully declared their assets… We strictly comply with all the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets in which we operate.”
It is believed that the objective of the scheme was to hide money in the Credit Suisse accounts away from the Belgian tax authorities. In some cases the money was then transferred to companies established in tax havens in order to divert attention and make it difficult for tax authorities to uncover who the owners of these companies are.
Spokesperson for the Belgian Finance Ministry, Francis Adyns said: “At the beginning of this year, information was communicated to us about Belgians with accounts at Credit Suisse”. He added: “That data is being analysed, but the investigations have not really started yet so as not to obstruct the criminal investigation. We cannot give more information at this time.”
The investigation into Credit Suisse follows a multi-million euro settlement with HSBC after Belgian authorities uncovered 3,137 accounts belonging to 2,450 Belgian clients who used similar means to avoid taxation by the Belgian tax authorities.
In October 2019, the Belgian authorities fined HSBC €295 Million as well as repossessing over €500 Million in back taxes and penalties from clients involved in the scheme.
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