Credit Suisse caught trying to shred evidence of loans to Russian oligarchs backed by superyachts and private jets

March 2, 2022, 1:12 PM UTC

Credit Suisse once again seems to be doing its level best to cement its reputation as Europe’s most scandal-plagued bank.

According to reports in the Financial Times, the Swiss credit institute has quietly been offloading risks from its exposure to U.S.-sanctioned Russian oligarchs, after this group was responsible in 2017 and 2018 for a third of the defaults on yacht and private jet loans the bank extended.

Hedge funds and other investors that bought securitized portfolios of these deals, backed by the ultra-luxury status items, were asked in a letter this week to “destroy and permanently erase” any evidence of the transaction, the paper reported.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a request like this,” it quoted one investor, who received the letter.

Credit Suisse declined to comment specifically on the report, but more broadly on the issue of Russia said in a statement sent to Fortune that it “serves its clients while complying with all applicable laws and regulations, including any sanctions from relevant authorities.” 

The $2 billion deal was a “synthetic securitization” to free up regulatory capital, undertaken by the bank as part of CEO Thomas Gottstein’s plan to adopt a more responsible approach to managing financial risk following its $5.5 billion loss from Archegos. 

It is unclear exactly when the security was issued, but deals this complex in nature typically take time to pull together, and at any rate was arranged prior to the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week. 

There is also no information on the exact proportion of loans in the security that are linked to Russian oligarchs who enriched themselves under Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Nevertheless, the Russian president’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on Thursday and the subsequent panoply of sanctions imposed against key profiteers of his regime couldn’t have come at a worse time for the bank. 

It also comes just one week after a Suisse Secrets whistleblower with access to sensitive client records inundated Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung with leaks showcasing the bank’s long-standing ties to international drug lords and corrupt regime officials who hid money stolen from their countries.

The report may not include a smoking gun directly linking the bank’s securitization to assets owned by Russian oligarchs, but it does raise the question once again of whether Credit Suisse has sufficient safeguards in place to say no to business deals that, while legal, drag the bank into ethical scandals.

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