Earlier this month, we reported on the latest major drug-smuggling scandal to involve a global megabank: Credit Suisse was facing a criminal trial in Switzerland over its role in servicing one of its clients, a Bulgarian wrestling star and alleged cocaine trafficker. The bank even overlooked allegations of a drug-linked murder and some other unsavory allegations, during the course of doing business with the client nearly two decades ago.
One CS private banking banker has also been accused of aiding the wrestler in hiding illicit money at the bank:
A 500-page indictment details how a convicted drug trafficker and Bulgarian wrestler Evelin Banev, along with several associates, placed "suitcases full of cash" in safe-deposit boxes at the bank. It also described how the unnamed CS banker - who is also facing criminal charges - helped to conceal the illicit origins of the money with seemingly legitimate transactions.
Now, the world is hearing more salacious details from the case, which has captivated some readers of the financial press after a handful of colorful articles (including ours) about Banev.
Speaking in court this week, Banev told Swiss prosecutors that top executives at the Zurich-based banking giant were aware of his activity, but decided to keep it hush-hush and continue serving Banev as a client (keep in mind, the illegal activity from this investigation took place between 2004 and 2008, well before the 1MDB scandal).
The trial began last week and is expected to conclude some time in early March. Banev is reportedly connected to the Bulgarian "gang" due to his status as a "mule", carrying money across international borders. At one point, Banev in an email played down the killing of one of his associates reportedly due to drug-trafficking activity.
The case hinges on illegal relations established between Switzerland’s second-largest bank and former Bulgarian wrestler Evelin Banev and multiple associates, two of whom are also charged in the case. The Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang allegedly employed Banev, who is accused of hauling millions in currency by car to Switzerland. The events reportedly unfolded between 2004 and 2008.
In an email from June 2005 read out in court last week, the banker played down press reports linking the murder of one of Banev’s associates a month earlier with drug trafficking.
"After the homicide we have decided to continue the business relationships," the banker wrote in the email. "The said (short and imprecise) article linking the murder to Spanish cocaine… has not been confirmed."
After being found guilty of money laundering in Italy and Bulgaria a few years ago, Banev was detained in Ukraine back in September. His attorney in Sofia (Bulgaria's capital city) denied that his client had been involved in money laundering tied to drug trafficking. Meanwhile, a CS banker has also been implicated in the criminal activity.
Last week, Banev’s attorney said in Sofia that his client denied any involvement in laundering money from drug trafficking through Credit Suisse. Meanwhile, the former wrestler was convicted of drug trafficking in Italy in 2017 and money laundering in Bulgaria in 2018. Banev was detained in September in Ukraine after Bulgaria and Romania sought his arrest.
The banker accused of helping conceal the criminal origins of the money, totaling more than 146 million Swiss francs in transactions, appeared in Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona with her managers, who gave evidence. The banker’s identity cannot be reported under Swiss privacy rules.
Credit Suisse disputes the notion that the money was illegal in origin. The bank also claimed that Banev and his circle operated legitimate businesses in construction, leasing, and hotels.