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House committee launches Russia-related probe into Credit Suisse

House lawmakers have asked Credit Suisse for documents concerning it asking investors to destroy documents that may be pertinent to Russian sanctions. File Photo by Ennio Leanza/EPA
House lawmakers have asked Credit Suisse for documents concerning it asking investors to destroy documents that may be pertinent to Russian sanctions. File Photo by Ennio Leanza/EPA

March 29 (UPI) -- The House oversight and reform committee announced it has launched an investigation into global investment bank Credit Suisse over its alleged connections to Russian oligarchs.

The committee sent a letter Monday addressed to Credit Suisse's chief executive, Thomas Gottstein, requesting information about recent reports that his company instructed hedge funds and other investors to destroy documents concerning yachts and private jets owned by its clients.

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These allegations, the committee said, raise concerns over the financial firm's compliance with sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies targeting Russian oligarchs over their country's invasion of Ukraine.

The committee said it was "particularly concerned" that the bank's directive to destroy documents concerning its clients' yachts, private planes and other such assets is in connection to Switzerland -- a historically neutral country when it comes to international conflict and where the company is based -- stating it will impose sanctions against Russia along with democratic nations.

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The letter also pointed to another report that states the bank sold off risk related to a $2 billion portfolio of loans backed by private yachts and planes -- assets that may be owned by Russian oligarchs targeted by sanctions.

"Credit Suisse's action raises significant concerns that it may be concealing information about whether participants in the securitization deal, including both Credit Suisse and investors, as well as owners of underlying assets, such as yachts and private jets, may be evading sanctions imposed by the United States and the international community in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine," the committee said.

It has asked Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-largest bank, to provide it with communications on loans backed by yachts and private jets, documents and other information provided to investors related to its portfolio backed by yachts and such assets, a list of participating investors in the securitization deal and other related information.

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The documents are to go back to January of 2017 and they are to be provided to the committee by April 11, it said.

UPI has contacted Credit Suisse for comment.

In early March following publication of reports that it may have committed wrong doing, Credit Suisse issued a statement explaining it had requested non-participating investors to destroy documents related to the November 2021 risk transfer transaction as stipulated in their non-disclosure agreement.

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The documents, it said, did not contain client names or asset identifiers.

"Following the successful closure of the transaction, Credit Suisse requested non-participating investors to destroy documents relating to the matter, as stipulated in the NDA," it said. "Reminding parties to destroy confidential information is good housekeeping and good data hygiene."

"The transaction and the request to non-participating investors to destroy confidential data are entirely unrelated to the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe," it added.

The company said its Russia net credit exposure is about $1.1 billion, including about $900 million in derivatives and financing exposures, trade finance exposures and other loans as well as about $200 million in its two Russian subsidiaries.

Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24 to widespread condemnation and was met with sanctions that have already taken a toll on its economy.

Days before the invasion, Credit Suisse was accused of poor business practices after accounts worth more than $100 billion were leaked.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said dozens of the accounts belonged to "dubious characters," including an Algerian general accused of torture as well as a Serbian drug lord.

Credit Suisse rejected the accusations.

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