WASHINGTON — A Senate subcommittee investigation accused Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse of using elaborate methods to hide from U.S. authorities the accounts of 22,000 wealthy American citizens with $12 billion in assets so they could avoid paying taxes.
The bipartisan inquiry also sharply criticized the Justice Department for being lax in using subpoenas and other legal tools to pressure the bank to reveal most of the names of account holders, which have been withheld as part of a long Swiss tradition of bank secrecy.
"The key to piercing the cocoon of bank secrecy and collecting the taxes owed by tax evaders is getting the names on those accounts," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
"Yet after years of investigations, negotiations and jawboning, the United States has names for just 238 of those 22,000 Credit Suisse customers," he said Tuesday in unveiling a 175-page report on the bank's practices.
The subcommittee will hold a hearing today on the report's findings. Senators will question Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan, other company executives and two top Justice Department officials.
The report, based in part on 100,000 documents from Credit Suisse, said the bank used tactics to help U.S. customers avoid paying taxes from at least 2001 to 2008.
The investigation began in 2011 after the Justice Department indicted seven Credit Suisse employees on charges of aiding and abetting U.S. tax evasion.