21 May 2014

Swiss bank fined $US2.6b for helping clients evade US taxes

5:13 am on 21 May 2014

Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to helping clients in the United States evade paying taxes to the federal government and has agreed to pay a fine of $US2.6 billion.

The Credit Suisse building in Bern, Switzerland.

The Credit Suisse building in Bern, Switzerland. Photo: AFP

It is the biggest bank to plead guilty to criminal charges in the United States in more than 20 years.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Swiss bank helped "tax cheats dodge US taxes".

Credit Suisse said in a statement it deeply regretted the past misconduct.

The bank said the settlement would reduce its second-quarter net profit by 1.6 billion Swiss francs.

The BBC reports the $US2.6 billion payment is the highest in a US criminal tax investigation to date.

However, as part of the agreement with US regulators, the bank will not lose its banking licence in the United States.

The bank does not expect its British and Swiss banking licences to be affected.

Mr Holder said the plea shows no financial institution is above the law.

He added that the tax evasion schemes went back decades, saying that in one case, the practice of using sham entities began more than 100 years ago.

Since 2011, the United States has indicted eight Credit Suisse employees who helped clients evade taxes.

Credit Suisse is not alone. The BBC reports prosecutors are chasing more than a dozen other Swiss banks suspected of helping wealthy Americans dodge US taxes.

In 2009, another Swiss bank, UBS, settled similar charges with regulators for $US780 million as well as an agreement in which the bank would divulge the names of "secret" account holders.