Credit Suisse faulted over probe of Nazi-linked bank accounts

U.S. lawmakers have accused embattled Swiss bank Credit Suisse of limiting the scope of an internal investigation into Nazi clients and Nazi-linked bank accounts, including some that were open until just a few years ago.

The Senate Budget Committee says an independent ombudsman initially brought in by the bank to oversee the probe was “inexplicably terminated” as he carried out his work, and it faulted “incomplete” reports that were hindered by restrictions.

Credit Suisse said it was “fully cooperating” with the committee’s inquiry but rejected some claims from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group, that brought to light in 2020 allegations of possible Nazi-linked accounts at Switzerland’s second-largest bank.

Despite the hurdles, the reports from the ombudsman and forensic research team revealed at least 99 accounts for senior Nazi officials in Germany or members of a Nazi-affliliated groups in Argentina, most of which were not previously disclosed, the committee said Tuesday.

The reports “raise new questions about the bank’s potential support for Nazis fleeing justice following World War II via so-called ‘Ratlines,” the committee said, referring to a network of escape routes used by Nazis after the war.

The committee said Credit Suisse “has pledged to continue its own investigation into remaining unanswered questions.”

“When it comes to investigating Nazi matters, righteous justice demands that we must leave no stone unturned. Credit Suisse has thus far failed to meet that standard,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican member of the budget panel.

The committee is “leaving no stone unturned when it comes to investigating Nazis and seeking justice for Holocaust survivors and their families, and we commit to seeing this investigation through,” said Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island.

Bank denies links to Nazis

Credit Suisse launched the internal investigation after the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it had information that the bank held potential Nazi-linked accounts that had not previously been revealed, including during a series of Holocaust-related investigations of the 1990s.

Late that decade, Swiss banks agreed to pay some $1.25 billion to Nazi victims and their families who accused the banks of stealing, hiding or sending to the Nazis hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Jewish holdings.

The bank said its two-year investigation into the questions raised by the Simon Wiesenthal Center found “no evidence” to support the allegations “that many people on an Argentine list of 12,000 names had accounts at Schweizerische Kreditanstalt” — the predecessor of Credit Suisse — during the Nazi era.

It said the investigation “fundamentally confirms existing research on Credit Suisse’s history published in the context of the 1999 Global Settlement that provided binding closure for the Swiss banks regarding all issues relating to World War II.”

The latest findings come soon after Credit Suisse, a pillar of Swiss banking whose origins date to 1856, was rescued in a government-orchestrated takeover by rival lender UBS.

The emergency action last month came after years of stock price declines, a string of scandals and the flight of depositors worried about Credit Suisse’s future amid global financial turmoil stirred by the collapse of two U.S. banks.

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