On July 19, 2017, Ms. Susanne D. Rüegg Meier, a citizen of Switzerland, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with her work as the head of a team of bankers for Credit Suisse AG. The announcement of this plea by a former Credit Suisse Banker came from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division.
Facts that Led to Guilty Plea by the Former Credit Suisse Banker
According to the statement of facts and the plea agreement, Ms. Rüegg Meier admitted that, between 2002 and 2011, she worked as the team head of the Zurich Team of Credit Suisse’s North American desk in Switzerland. Ms. Rüegg Meier was responsible for supervising the servicing of accounts involving over 1,000 to 1,500 client relationships, out of which she personally handled about 140 to 150 clients (the great majority of these clients were U.S. persons). These “personally handled” clients had assets of about $400 million.
Ms. Rüegg Meier assisted many U.S. clients in utilizing their Credit Suisse accounts to evade their U.S. income taxes and to facilitate concealment of their undeclared financial accounts from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS. In particular, she engaged in the following activities to help her clients conceal their accounts: retaining in Switzerland all mail related to the account; structuring withdrawals in the forms of multiple checks each payable in amounts less than $10,000 that were sent by courier to clients in the United States and arranging for U.S. customers to withdraw cash from their Credit Suisse accounts at Credit Suisse locations outside Switzerland, such as the Bahamas. Moreover, Ms. Rüegg Meier admitted that approximately 20 to 30 of her U.S. clients concealed their ownership and control of foreign financial accounts by holding those accounts in the names of nominee tax haven entities or other structures that were frequently created in the form of foreign partnerships, trusts, corporations or foundations.
Additionally, between 2002 and 2008, the former Credit Suisse banker traveled approximately twice per year to the United States to meet with her clients. Among other places, Ms. Rüegg Meier met clients in the Credit Suisse New York representative office. To prepare for the trips, the former Credit Suisse banker would obtain “travel” account statements that contained no Credit Suisse logos or customer information, as well as business cards that bore no Credit Suisse logos and had an alternative street address for her office, in order to assist her in concealing the nature and purpose of her business.
After the UBS case, Credit Suisse began closing U.S. customers’ accounts in 2008. During that time, Ms. Rüegg Meier assisted the clients in keeping their assets concealed. In one instance, when one U.S. customer was informed that the bank planned to close his account, the former Credit Suisse banker assisted the customer in closing the account by withdrawing approximately $1 million in cash. Furthermore, she advised the client to find another bank simply by walking along the street in Zurich and locating a bank that would be willing to open an account for the client. The customer placed the cash into a paper bag and exited the bank.
Admitted Tax Loss from the Activities of the Former Credit Suisse Banker and Potential Sentence
The former Credit Suisse Banker admitted that the tax loss associated with her criminal conduct was between $3.5 and $9.5 million. The sentencing of Ms. Rüegg Meier is scheduled for September 8, 2017. She faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.