Credit Suisse 'helped wealthy Americans hide billions in secret Swiss bank accounts'

US Department of Justice has obtained the identities of 238 account holders

Credit Suisse allegedly helped thousands of American customers avoid billions in taxes according to a scathing report released by a US Senate committee on Tuesday.

The report alleges Switzerland's second largest bank opened more than 22,000 bank accounts for US clients; helping them conceal assets and income in offshore shell entities and undeclared accounts worth $12 billion from 2001 to 2008.

According to the report, Credit Suisse used a variety of "cloak and dagger" tactics to help customers dodge taxes; allegedly shredding documents and falsifying visa applications for bankers pretending to be tourists while recruiting new clients.

Sub-committee chairman Senator Carl Levin said: (Credit Suisse) "aided and abetted US tax evasion, not only from behind a veil of secrecy in Switzerland, but also on US soil by sending Swiss bankers here to open hidden accounts."

The report also suggests that Credit Suisse set up a branch at Zurich airport so American customers could fly in, access their accounts and leave, and, in one occasion, handed an account statement to a client hidden inside the pages of a Sports Illustrated magazine.

The report claimed the bank sponsored golf tournaments in Florida and the annual "Swiss Ball" in New York to recruit wealthy clients.

Over the past five years the US Justice Department has obtained information, including client names, for only 238 undeclared Swiss bank accounts.

Chief executive Brady Dougan is expected to rebuff some of the allegations later today, blaming a small group of Swiss traders who "skirted the bank’s controls, and concealed their violations of policy from Credit Suisse executive management".

In prepared remarks, he added: "While Credit Suisse deeply regrets and takes responsibility for those violations, those actions should not overshadow the bank’s ongoing commitment and consistent dedication to compliance with US law."

Credit Suisse is one of 14 banks currently under investigation by US regulators for possible tax evasion.