Geneva – The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Credit Suisse Group's offshore business with wealthy American clients as part of a larger probe into suspected U.S. tax evaders, the Swiss bank said Friday.
Credit Suisse said it was informed of the investigation Thursday and will cooperate with U.S. authorities within the limits set by Swiss banking secrecy.
"The investigation concerns historical private banking services provided on a cross-border basis to U.S. persons," the bank said in a statement. "It has been reported that the U.S. authorities are conducting a broader industry inquiry," it added.
Credit Suisse is the most high-profile Swiss bank to be targeted by U.S. investigators since rival UBS AG became embroiled in a tax evasion probe three years ago. Zurich-based UBS admitted to helping U.S. clients hide money on offshore accounts and ended up paying a fine and giving U.S. authorities details on thousands of American account holders. The case prompted Switzerland to soften its strict banking secrecy rules in response to international pressure.
Observers had expected a formal investigation against Credit Suisse after three former and one current employee of the bank were indicted by U.S. authorities in February on charges of conspiring to help American tax cheats.
Analysts at Zuercher Kantonalbank noted that a new treaty currently being discussed by Bern and Washington -- which would automatically tax the accounts of American bank clients in Switzerland -- might ease the pressure on Credit Suisse and other Swiss banks.
Shares in Credit Suisse were down 1.5 percent at 30.13 Swiss francs ($36.88) on the Zurich exchange.