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Credit Suisse to pay $234M to end French tax probe

Credit Suisse

(Reuters) — Credit Suisse agreed to pay France 238 million euros ($234 million) to settle a tax fraud and money laundering case on Monday, putting another legal headache behind it as it prepares a strategic overhaul.

The agreement resolves an investigation in France over whether the Swiss bank, which is trying to recover from losses and scandals, helped clients to avoid paying tax on their wealth.

The alleged scheme, which prosecutors have said took place in several countries between 2005 and 2012, caused “fiscal damage” of more than 100 million euros to the French state, the prosecution office said.

The bank said in a statement: “The settlement does not comprise a recognition of criminal liability. The bank is pleased to resolve this matter, which marks another important step in the proactive resolution of litigation and legacy issues.”

Credit Suisse will have to make a slight increase to provisions set aside for the case, a source close to the matter said, adding that the difference will be accounted for in third-quarter results.

Credit Suisse lawyers declined to answer questions on the settlement in court, with one of them saying that the deal was the best way to “turn the page.”

Credit Suisse shares dipped slightly after news of the settlement. They recovered to trade 1.4% higher by 0915 GMT.

One of Switzerland’s systemically important banks, Credit Suisse is scheduled to release details of its strategic review alongside third-quarter results on Oct. 27.

The bank has appeared more willing to settle legal matters under new legal chief Markus Diethelm, who joined in July and has taken a more pro-active approach than his predecessor.

This month it agreed to pay $495 million to settle allegations it mis-sold mortgage-backed securities in the United States, the latest pay-out related to past blunders that have battered the bank’s reputation.

In June, the bank was convicted of failing to prevent money laundering by a Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang, while a Bermuda court ruled that a former Georgian prime minister and his family were due damages of more than $600 million from Credit Suisse’s life insurance arm, which the bank is appealing.

A similar case is pending in Singapore.

The U.S. Justice Department is also reported to be investigating whether Credit Suisse continued helping U.S. clients to hide assets from authorities, eight years after the Swiss bank paid a $2.6-billion tax evasion settlement.