ZURICH, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Credit score Suisse confronted prices in a Swiss courtroom on Monday of permitting an alleged Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang to launder thousands and thousands of euros, a few of it stuffed into suitcases.

Within the first prison trial of a serious financial institution in Switzerland, Swiss prosecutors are searching for round 42.4 million Swiss francs ($45.86 million) in compensation from Credit score Suisse (CSGN.S).

They are saying the nation’s second-biggest financial institution and one in every of its former relationship managers didn’t take all essential steps to stop the alleged drug traffickers from hiding and laundering money between 2004 and 2008.

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“Credit score Suisse unreservedly rejects as meritless all allegations on this legacy matter raised in opposition to it and is satisfied that its former worker is harmless,” the financial institution stated in an announcement to Reuters. It added it could “defend itself vigorously in courtroom”.

The case has attracted intense curiosity in Switzerland, the place it’s seen as a check for prosecutors taking a doubtlessly more durable stance in opposition to the nation’s banks.

The indictment runs to greater than 500 pages, and centres on relationships that Credit score Suisse and its ex-employee had with former Bulgarian wrestler Evelin Banev and a number of associates, two of whom are charged within the case. A second indictment within the case prices a former relationship supervisor at Julius Baer with facilitating cash laundering.

A authorized consultant for the ex-Credit score Suisse worker, who can’t be named below Swiss privateness legal guidelines, stated the case was unjustified and his shopper denied wrongdoing.

That banker would begin testifying on Wednesday or Thursday, a preliminary courtroom schedule confirmed.

A lawyer for the 2 alleged gang members, who face prices of a number of counts of misappropriation, fraud and forgery of paperwork within the Swiss federal courtroom however can’t be named below Swiss privateness legal guidelines, declined to remark. A lawyer for the previous relationship supervisor at Julius Baer didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Banev, who doesn’t face prices in Switzerland, was convicted of drug trafficking in Italy in 2017 after which in Bulgaria in 2018 for cash laundering.

He vanished, however was arrested in September in Ukraine.

Bulgarian prosecutors are searching for his extradition to face prices of establishing an organised prison group for cash laundering, whereas Romania seeks him for establishing a bunch for drug trafficking, Interpol’s pink checklist of needed individuals exhibits.

Banev’s authorized consultant had no quick remark.

Julius Baer (BAER.S), which isn’t dealing with prices, declined to touch upon the case.

CASH IN CASES

The previous Credit score Suisse worker introduced at the very least one Bulgarian buyer, who was an affiliate of Banev, along with her when she joined Credit score Suisse in 2004, prosecutors allege within the indictment.

The shopper, who was later shot lifeless as he left a restaurant along with his spouse in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2005, had begun putting suitcases full of money in a protected deposit field at Credit score Suisse, the indictment says.

Prosecutors allege the gang used a follow often known as smurfing, whereby a big sum of cash is damaged down into smaller quantities which are under the anti-money laundering alert threshold, to launder cash, placing thousands and thousands of euros in small-value payments into security deposit containers and later transferring them into accounts.

The defendants stated this was normal follow on the time the deposits have been made, though Swiss personal banks have since adopted a lot more durable anti-money laundering know-your-client checks after worldwide strain.

The prosecutors allege the previous relationship supervisor, who left Credit score Suisse in 2010 after being detained for 2 weeks by police in 2009, helped conceal the prison origins of cash for the purchasers by finishing up greater than 146 million Swiss francs in transactions, together with 43 million francs in money.

“Our shopper is being unfairly accused, as a result of Swiss regulation requires that an individual be implicated with a purpose to condemn a financial institution,” attorneys at regulation agency MANGEAT LLC, representing the ex-employee, instructed Reuters. “She is harmless, outraged by the accusations. We’ll plead for her full and full acquittal.”

Credit score Suisse disputes the unlawful origin of the cash, a supply aware of its pondering instructed Reuters, saying that Banev and his circle operated legit companies in building, leasing and resorts.

The Swiss financial institution, which the indictment says thought-about Bulgaria as a high-risk nation on the time, plans to attract consideration to calls made by its compliance division to Swiss prosecutors after Banev was quickly arrested in Bulgaria in April 2007, the supply added.

Credit score Suisse is hoping that the courtroom will view that its compliance division’s transfer was an indication of the financial institution taking its anti-money laundering obligations significantly and of cooperating with prosecutors within the matter.

In June 2007, the prosecutors requested Credit score Suisse for data on accounts held by Banev and his associates in response to a request from Bulgaria, the supply added.

Noticing a collection of withdrawals, the financial institution’s compliance division requested prosecutors whether or not to freeze the accounts, however was instructed to not with a purpose to keep away from tipping the purchasers off, in accordance with the supply.

By the point prosecutors gave Credit score Suisse the go-ahead, a lot of the cash had been withdrawn.

The prosecutors’ workplace declined to touch upon Friday, saying the matter was within the arms of the courtroom.

The second indictment filed by federal prosecutors in opposition to the previous relationship supervisor at Julius Baer, which is being tried in the identical courtroom case, alleges a number of the funds have been transferred to a different Swiss financial institution.

The previous relationship supervisor, who left a number of months after the transfers happened, is charged with facilitating cash laundering.

Julius Baer had refused to just accept a suitcase stuffed with money from the defendants, the indictment says.

($1 = 0.9245 Swiss francs)

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Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Silke Koltrowitz; Extra reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Enhancing by Alexander Smith and Barbara Lewis

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

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