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Credit Suisse to pay 238 mn euros to settle French fraud probe

Credit Suisse has agreed to pay 238 million euros ($234 million) to avoid prosecution on French money laundering and tax fraud charges, according to a settlement approved Monday by a Paris court.

The settlement will see Switzerland’s second-largest bank pay a fine of 123 million euros and pay an additional 115 million euros in damages and interest to the French state.

Credit Suisse said it had reached the settlement “to resolve a legacy matter in relation to an investigation into historical cross-border private-banking services.”

It added that “the settlement does not comprise a recognition of criminal liability.”

French financial prosecutors opened a probe in 2016 and found that 5,000 French nationals had undeclared Credit Suisse accounts that were hiding two billion euros, according to the court.

The judge presiding over the settlement said that Credit Suisse bankers had prospected for clients in high-end French restaurants and hotels, avoiding the bank’s offices in the country.

Prosecutor Francois-Xavier Dulin said the settlement took into account “the systematic character, lengthy period and creation of tools to hide” its prospecting of French clients between 2005 and 2012.

He said Credit Suisse had created offshore entities to aid clients to avoid declaring certain assets to French authorities.

Prosecutors added the settlement also took into account the bank’s current cooperation and the corrective measures it undertook.

“The bank is pleased to resolve this matter, which marks another important step in the proactive resolution of litigation and legacy issues,” Credit Suisse said in its statement.

The bank last week reached an agreement with prosecutors in the US state of New Jersey over mortgage-backed securities dating back to the 2008 financial crisis.

Credit Suisse shares gained more than 2.3 percent on the Swiss stock exchange by mid-afternoon on Monday as investors welcomed the latest court settlement.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s earlier this month said these “legacy issues” would “continue to cloud visibility” around the bank’s financial forecasts if they remained unresolved.

New Credit Suisse chief executive Ulrich Koerner is set to unveil his strategic road map on Thursday as he tries to improve the beleaguered bank’s fortunes.

His update has triggered speculation about the size of a potential increase in capital and the assets Credit Suisse may sell to finance its restructuring.

In November 2017, HSBC Private Bank, a Swiss subsidiary of the British banking giant, agreed to pay 300 million euros to avoid a trial in France over tax fraud accusations.