Credit Suisse to pay $536M to settle Iran wire transfer case

Dec 16, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

By Associated Press

Credit Suisse Group has agreed to pay $536 million to settle a Justice Department probe and admit to violating U.S. economic sanctions by hiding the booming illegal business it was doing for Iranian banks.

The settlement papers were filed Wednesday in federal court in Washington.

The bank has been under criminal investigation for years over business it did with countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions between 2002 and 2007.

The settlement papers charge the bank had a long-running practice of helping Iranian banks evade the sanctions by hiding the identity of their Iranian customers in international money transactions.

"Credit Suisse's internal communications showed a continuous dialogue about evading U.S. sanctions spanning approximately a decade," according to government papers filed in the case.

Earlier this year, Lloyds TSB Bank PLC agreed to forfeit $350 million for helping customers skirt U.S. sanctions on business transactions with Sudan, Iran and Libya.

The court papers filed Wednesday say that when Lloyds decided in 2003 to stop doing such business, the Iranian banks moved their business over to Credit Suisse.

As a result, Credit Suisse quadrupled the number of Iranian transactions in U.S. dollars between the years 2002 and 2005, from about 50,000 to about 200,000.

U.S. authorities also said Credit Suisse handled a far smaller number of transactions involving other countries facing sanctions, including Libya, Sudan, and Burma.

The bank began winding down their sanction-evading business in 2006, the government said.

"Credit Suisse is committed to the highest standards of integrity and regulatory compliance in all its businesses and takes this matter extremely seriously," the bank said in a statement Wednesday.

It said it had undertaken a review of some U.S. dollar payments that involved countries, people or entities subject to sanctions.

The bank acknowledged Tuesday it was near a settlement in talks with the Justice Department, Federal Reserve, Manhattan district attorney's office and the Treasury Department.

The Manhattan district attorney's office confirmed Tuesday it was negotiating with the bank. The district attorney's office and the Justice Department have scheduled separate news conferences for Wednesday afternoon.

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