Credit Suisse pleads guilty to US tax evasion charges, fined over $2.5 bn

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty to charges of helping its wealthy American clients evade taxes for decades and agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in fines to avoid prosecution.

"Credit Suisse conspired to help US citizens hide assets in offshore accounts in order to evade paying taxes. When a bank engages in misconduct this brazen, it should expect that the Justice Department will pursue criminal prosecution to the fullest extent possible, as has happened here," US attorney general Eric Holder said.

''This case shows that no financial institution, no matter its size or global reach, is above the law,'' Holder said.

Credit Suisse pleaded guilty after a years-long investigation by US law enforcement authorities that also produced indictments of eight Credit Suisse executives since 2011; two of them have pleaded guilty so far.

"This is the largest bank to plead guilty in 20 years. The bank will pay a total of $1.8 billion in the form of a fine of over $1.13 billion and nearly $670 million in restitution to the IRS.

"They have admitted criminal wrongdoing in a detailed Statement of Facts filed alongside the information in this case," he said.

Credit Suisse acknowledged that for decades prior to and through 2009, it operated an illegal cross-border banking business that knowingly and willfully aided and assisted thousands of US clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts and concealing their offshore assets and income from the IRS.

Of late, the US Department of Justice has been cracking down on American tax evaders in India, Israel, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands and several other Caribbean countries.

Credit Suisse isn't even the first Swiss-banking giant to face tax-evasion charges in the US. Another Swiss banking major UBS had agreed to pay $780 million in restitution to the US government on similar charges five years ago.