(JTA) — The U.S. Senate Budget Committee has accused Credit Suisse of impeding an investigation into former accounts at the bank held by Nazis, including many who fled to South American countries after World War II.
On Tuesday, the committee released two reports, one by an independent ombudsman the bank had hired to oversee the investigation and one by a forensic research team. The bank fired the ombudsman, American lawyer Neil Barofsky, in November, months into his investigation.
“Credit Suisse’s decision to stop its review midstream has left many questions unanswered, including questions about the thoroughness of its prior investigative efforts, the extent to which it served Nazi interests and the bank’s role in servicing Nazis fleeing justice after the war,” Barofsky wrote in his findings, according to reports.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate committee’s ranking Republican, added in a statement on Tuesday: “When it comes to investigating Nazi matters, righteous justice demands that we must leave no stone unturned. Credit Suisse has thus far failed to meet that standard.”
Jewish organizations have long claimed that in addition to playing a key role in financially supporting Nazi Germany, Credit Suisse has held onto money looted from Jews long after the war. In 1999, the Swiss bank paid Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors a settlement of $1.25 billion in restitution for withholding money from Jews who tried to withdraw their funds.
In 2020, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an antisemitism watchdog named after a famed Nazi hunter, reported that an Argentine investigator had found evidence that thousands of Nazis who fled to Argentina had kept accounts at Credit Suisse for decades, some with looted funds. The bank then opened an internal investigation.
Earlier this year, Grassley said that he had “received credible allegations of potential wrongdoing related to Credit Suisse’s internal investigation, including specifically the questionable removal of Mr. Barofsky in late 2022.”
“[T]he information we’ve obtained shows the bank established an unnecessarily rigid and narrow scope, and refused to follow new leads uncovered during the course of the review,” Grassley said in a statement.
According to the Associated Press, the forensic firm AlixPartners’ report showed that 21 Credit Suisse accounts had connections to Nazis, including multiple SS officers, on the Wiesenthal Center 2020 list. The New York Times reported that Barofsky, who was hired by the bank in February, had not found any accounts definitively linked to Nazis that were still open at the time of his firing, but he wrote that he was in November still looking into accounts not included in the 1990s report that he believed could have held Nazi money.
The bank said in a statement that the new reports confirm “existing research on Credit Suisse’s history published in the context of the 1999 Global Settlement that provided binding closure for the Swiss banks regarding all issues relating to World War II.”
The probe will continue in some form, as the Senate committee noted that the bank “committed to further investigate its apparent role in supporting Nazis fleeing from justice after WWII.”
Thousands of Nazis fled Europe to havens in Latin America after the war, most notably to countries such as Argentina and Brazil but also to others such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru.
Switzerland had long claimed full neutrality during World War II, but the 1990s investigations into banks and other wartime financial dealings with Nazi Germany shattered that reputation. The country’s financial system, it was revealed, had laundered gold and other stolen goods through the war and resisted pushes in its immediate aftermath to pay restitution to Jewish victims of the Nazis.
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