Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to the charges that it helped its American clients evade taxes and agreed to pay a penalty of USD 2.6 billion to avoid prosecution.
The Swiss bank plea follows a years-long investigation by US law enforcement authorities that also produced indictments of eight Credit Suisse executives since 2011; two of them have pleaded guilty so far.
"Credit Suisse conspired to help US citizens hide assets in offshore accounts in order to evade paying taxes. When a bank engages in misconduct this brazen, it should expect that the Justice Department will pursue criminal prosecution to the fullest extent possible, as has happened here," US Attorney General Eric Holder said.
"This is the largest bank to plead guilty in 20 years. The bank will pay a total of USD 1.8 billion in the form of a fine of over USD 1.13 billion and nearly USD 670 million in restitution to the IRS.
"They have admitted criminal wrongdoing in a detailed Statement of Facts filed alongside the information in this case," he said.
As part of the plea agreement, Credit Suisse acknowledged that for decades prior to and through 2009, it operated an illegal cross-border banking business that knowingly and willfully aided and assisted thousands of US clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts and concealing their offshore assets and income from the IRS.
"Credit Suisse's guilty plea is just the latest effort by the department to slam the door shut on undeclared bank accounts, phony trusts and other foreign schemes used by US taxpayers to evade taxes," said Deputy Attorney General Cole.
"We will continue to hold to account the bankers, the brokers and other professionals in Switzerland and around the world as well as the institutions that trained and directed them to use bank secrecy laws to protect US tax cheats," he said.
In recent years, the US Department of Justice has taken public actions in India, Israel, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands and several other Caribbean countries against American tax evaders.
"We are engaged in law enforcement actions around the world that are not yet public," he said.
Credit Suisse employed a variety of means to assist US clients in concealing their undeclared accounts, including by assisting them in using sham entities to hide undeclared accounts; failing to maintain in the US records related to the accounts; destroying account records sent to the US for client review; and using bank's managers and employees