Natasha Wright

Some well-informed analysts tend to say that Switzerland is a schmutzig country. Now we probably know why.

In a ‘business deal of the century’ brokered by the Swiss government, Switzerland’s largest bank and its financial pride and joy was acquired by its smaller rival USB for a meagre $3.2 billion.

The current affairs sections of the leading news agencies have recently been populated by the breaking news that Credit Suisse had to be sold but to the lowest bidder this time or so it seems. Though this takeover deal, brokered in such a frantic haste over the course of just a few days by the Swiss government stands in silent testimony of this colossal collapse, there is a question hovering in mid air, why did Credit Suisse have to be sold so suddenly ‘at such short (banking) notice’, given that the giant bank has existed for 166 years with a superb banking tradition among other cutting-edge world banks?

If we want to answer this question, we need to bear in mind that the bank at the moment of its acquisition had more than $100 billions in its assets so its financial balance was rather sound and particularly because it had more than $500 billion in passive capital such as real estate. Yet, recently it was sold for an obscenely low amount at about $3, 7 billion. But the real reason appears to have been the heavy pressure that the U.S. government exerted on the government of Switzerland that Credit Suisse, this steam engine of credit and paragon of superb banking reputation, had to be sold inexplicably urgently, sending shockwaves across the financial sector. A direct cause for this seemingly sudden decision was the previous collapse of two other banks: Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank (oddly enough, not many ordinary people had heard of those before their collapse) and an additional reason: a financial turmoil in the U.S. stock exchange.

Suddenly, a saying comes to my mind: ‘for everything there is a good reason and a real reason’. The real reason for the Credit Suisse collapse was found out a few weeks ago. Namely, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee was in session recently and one of the topics was Credit Suisse Bank. A layperson may wonder how come Credit Suisse has been (was?) targeted by the Budget Committee in the U.S. Senate? And why one part of the report adopted at the Senate Committee which the media managed to get hold of was literally blurred on the verge of illegibility. Apparently, the reason was the obstruction of the Credit Suisse Bank surrounding the investigation of the financial funds which had been deposited by the Nazis (yes, you’ve heard well, the ‘bad’ old Nazis) after the Second World War into the bank accounts of Credit Suisse and its legal predecessors: die Schweizerische Kreditanstalt and a number of other banks or smaller scale financial institutions.

However, this unyielding search for the Nazi money, the part of which originates from the property and gold which belonged to the Jews brutally murdered in the concentration camps during the Second World War, has lasted for quite a while. The investigation in question was first conducted by Volzker’s Commission, and then Bergier’s Commission and then from March 2020 by the already well known Simon Wiesenthal Centre, famous for hunting down the Nazis. Namely, only now have the broader public found out that in 2020 a full-blown administrative war of small proportions was waged behind the proverbial curtains between the Simon Wiesenthal Centre on one side and Credit Suisse Bank on the other, mediated by the independent ombudsperson and an independent advisor. The ombudsperson and the independent advisor were both appointed upon the insistence on the part of the Credit Suisse Bank. The position of ombudsperson was given to Neil Barofsky, the former public prosecutor of the State of New York. Ira Forman, a special U.S. government envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism was appointed to be the investigation advisor.

The agreement between these two sides was kept in absolute secrecy related to the thorough and complete investigation of the Nazi funds allegedly deposited in Credit Suisse. But on the 21st November 2022, Credit Suisse flatly refused to cooperate further and definitely ceased collaboration with the Investigative Committee. In response to that decision, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre determined to come out into the public and expose the nefarious activities by Credit Suisse. Shortly afterwards, in April this year both the ombudsperson and the advisor submitted a report to the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. That report confirmed that Credit Suisse kept impeding the investigation in any way imaginable and rebuffed the process with all sorts of excuses in order to evade disclosing the requested information. After the Senate Budget Committee had been in session, Chuck Grassley, the U.S. Senator for Iowa responded that according to the information that they had managed to find, Credit Suisse assumed an extremely but unnecessarily rigid and restricted position and bluntly and categorically declined to open their archives.

And what did the ombudsperson and the investigative committee manage to uncover after all? If we go back to its origin, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) was created by way of a merger of the bank die Schweizerische Kreditanstalt (SKA), and a few other smaller establishments. That is the reason why Credit Suisse tried to stand their legal ground during the investigation by resorting to the arguments that a part of the specimen signature cards of the bank accounts owners were written by hand in the past. Since the 1960s these were written using the typewriters and only since the end of the 90s these have been digitized. Apparently, CS claims, much of this was lost from the archives in that it simply disappeared for a number of technical reasons. They also added that there are still no centralized archives for the whole bank and its global branches.

The representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre responded as follows: ‘Provided that that were true, how is it possible then that the Bergier Commission (also known as the ICE (Independent Commission of Experts based in Switzerland) upon the inquiry related to the specific bank accounts, gets a response that there is no data in the Credit Suisse archives, yet after March 2020 they were ‘made’ to confirm that some of the bank accounts do exist after all? Moreover, it has been established that to date there are more than 655 legal entities: companies, their affiliates and other related organizations, which were founded by the Nazis and their heirs which have their bank accounts opened in Credit Suisse not only in Switzerland but globally as well.

The organizations which had the money in the bank accounts in this bank are for instance: UAK ’Unión Alemana de Gremios’ (the German Union of Syndicates) in Argentina, then the Nazi Party of the Germans in Argentina too, one member of which allegedly was the great-grandson of the founder of Siemens, and also a company in charge of purchasing diamonds on behalf of the Nazis around the world and additional 8,000 of them affiliated to similar Nazi organizations. A high-ranking SS officer Friedrich Schwent, who coordinated the notorious rescue operation for the Nazis fleeing to other countries after the Second World War via the escape routes known as ratlines, allegedly also had his bank account in this bank. Furthermore, Adolf Eichmann, a German-Austrian official of the Nazi Party, an officer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust, was hiding for the first six months in the villa belonging to Credit Suisse’s Director for Argentina and then later he was also financially supported by Credit Suisse. To prove that this issue is not new, we should add that Credit Suisse already paid $1.25 billion in 1998 to settle lawsuits filed by Holocaust survivors and their heirs who claimed that the banks illegally kept millions of dollars deposited by their relatives before and during the Second World War.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre states that more than 12 000 Nazis had their accounts in Credit Suisse. One of the former directors in one of the CS departments responded: ‘The crux of the matter is that the Simon Wiesenthal Centre since 2020 did not want to give the bank not even the copies of the documents which they were referring to, fearing that the documents may be destroyed.’ On the other hand, the bank top ranking managers and majority stakeholders were in agony over what further evidence the Simon Wiesenthal Centre held in their possession, which they have not published yet.

After the first bank and then the second one went bankrupt and the broader public and the U.S. Senate found out about the scandal-ridden Credit Suisse, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre published that they got hold of the information on a great deal of other bank accounts of individuals and companies which belong to the Nazis and/or they were opened by their legal heirs. All this was used by the U.S. government at the moment it was convenient for them to exert heavy pressure on the Swiss government to sell Credit Suisse. The fact of the matter is that it is to do with hundreds of billions of dollars in losses but regardless, Zurich’s oldest major bank came to an inglorious end.

One has to wonder whether the Swiss rock-solid currency and all the milk and honey prosperity and abundance in the post war period up until now may have been built on something extraordinarily unscrupulous rather than the world famous, mouth-watering milk chocolate and picture perfect chalets in Swiss ski centres. I am not entirely sure if the impact on Switzerland’s reputation as a global banking and financial centre may be considerably tarnished after the Ides of March 2023 Swiss style.

After all, some well-informed analysts tend to say that Switzerland is a schmutzig country. Now we probably know why.

Thanks to