US senators have accused embattled Swiss bank Credit Suisse of limiting the scope of an internal investigation into Nazi clients and Nazi-linked accounts – including some open that were until just a few years ago.
The US senate budget committee said an independent ombudsman initially brought in by the bank to oversee the probe was “inexplicably” removed while 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 Centre, 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 these 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-affiliated groups in Argentina, most of which were not previously disclosed, the committee said on Tuesday.
The reports “raise new questions about the bank’s potential support for Nazis fleeing justice following World War Two via so-called ‘Ratlines’,” the committee said, referring to a network of escape routes used by Nazis after the war.
Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the budget panel, said: “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.
“Its removal of an Independent Ombudsperson and insistence on redacting portions of his report as well as its initial refusal to pursue leads on accounts that may be associated with Nazi ratlines is no way to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”
Credit Suisse launched the internal investigation after the Simon Wiesenthal Centre 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.
Later that decade, Swiss banks agreed to pay some 1.25 billion (£1 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 Centre 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 Two”.
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 US banks.