Suisse secrets: Swiss banking under fire

A major investigation by the journalists' network OCCRP into leaked data on more than 18,000 accounts has revealed that the Swiss bank Credit Suisse accepted autocrats, drug dealers, suspected war criminals and human traffickers as clients between 1940 and the 2010s. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers were also involved in the report. Europe's press demands consequences.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Moral bankruptcy

The Suisse secrets differ from previous data leaks in one key respect, comments US economist Joseph Stiglitz in La Stampa:

“This time it's not a small, obscure offshore island or a struggling developing country trying to figure out an alternative business model to drugs. It's a major bank in the middle of Europe, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world; a country where the 'rule of law' is supposed to reign supreme. Even more disappointing, given that the country and bank involved have made promises of transparency and doing better. And that's the point: without more transparency, there can't be accountability.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Defensive stance no good

Instead of glossing over the accusations Switzerland must now take a critical look at its banking system, Le Temps demands:

“We will immediately react to the somewhat exaggerated attacks by playing them down, saying that these are old accounts and that the practice is no longer common, and hide behind conspiracy theories about an alleged offensive against Switzerland. This attitude will prevent us from having a healthy discussion about our role as a financial centre, from learning lessons from this data leak, launching investigations if warranted and making the necessary changes without waiting for new scandals and new pressure from outside.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Get rid of the gag law for journalists

Arthur Rutishauser, editor-in-chief of the Tages-Anzeiger, laments that Swiss media could not participate in the research:

“A good ten years ago, Swiss banking secrecy was under constant attack by the US, Germany, the UK and France. ... That was the environment in which conservative politicians pushed through a rigorous law in parliament in 2014 to defend banking secrecy, also explicitly against the publication of bank data in the media. ... That's precisely why in Switzerland too, we also need journalists who are allowed to do research. It's a disgrace that foreign colleagues have to do this for us. That's why the gag article in the Banking Act urgently needs to be abolished.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Brussels must up the pressure

To stop such deals, the EU must abandon its indifferent stance, demands the taz:

“EU states already have rules that are much stricter than those in Switzerland. The EU is currently working on standardising them for all member states. The problem is that the rules do not apply to Switzerland, which is not a member state. And the country has so far refused to do more. It is within its rights to do so - and precisely the secretive banking system is one of the country's business models. Major pressure must be exerted to make it introduce changes: the EU could, for instance, classify Switzerland as a high-risk area on its list of high-risk third countries; this would make doing business with banks much harder for it.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

One man's bank secrecy is another man's tax law

NRC Handelsblad takes the report as an opportunity to point out problems with money laundering in the Netherlands:

“The hunt for fake or illegal money is inextricably linked to the creation of a common playing field in international tax law - whereby the Netherlands itself still has much progress to make regarding its own tax finangling and letterbox companies. ... The task of the banks is above all to provide the economy and companies with the financial services they need to do business. If this is done cleanly, efficiently and transparently, it creates the greatest prosperity. ”