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BANK

Swiss return $1.8 billion in seized Arab Spring assets

Switzerland said on Tuesday it has returned nearly 1.7 billion francs ($1.83 billion) in illicitly placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes.

“The return of illicit assets is a key component of the system set up by Switzerland to protect its financial sector and to fight against international financial crime,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

It did not name the countries to which money had been returned however.

Switzerland revealed the figures during a meeting of international experts on Monday and Tuesday in Lausanne that focused on the recovery of illicit assets held by autocratic leaders in countries where regime changes occurred.

The seminar included experts from international aid organizations in 15 countries.

Meanwhile, Swiss courts have expanded investigations into frozen Tunisian and Egyptian assets, amid suspicions that a crime syndicate may be linked to them.

“In addition to the suspicion of money laundering,” investigators are probing the possible involvement of a “criminal organization,” a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, Jeannette Balmer, told AFP.

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BANK

Credit Suisse slashes jobs, branches to move ‘online’

Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, said Tuesday it would reorientate its domestic services towards digital banking, with a quarter of its Swiss branches to close and hundreds of jobs at risk.

Credit Suisse slashes jobs, branches to move 'online'
A Credit Suisse branch. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

“In the last two years alone, use of online banking at Credit Suisse has grown by approximately 40 percent, while the use of mobile banking has more than doubled,” the bank said in a statement.

“The COVID-19 crisis has further accelerated these trends. In contrast, the number of visits to branches has been declining for years.

“Credit Suisse will introduce a new digital offering and a future-oriented branch concept at the end of October.”

The bank also plans to merge the activities of regional subsidiary Neue Aargauer Bank with those under the Credit Suisse brand to avoid duplication.

READ: How to open a bank account in Switzerland 

With its realignment, the bank intends to reduce annual costs by around 100 million Swiss francs ($110 million, 93 million euros) from 2022 onwards. It plans to cut the number of bank branches from 146 to 109.

Meanwhile up to 500 jobs could be axed, Andre Helfenstein, head of the bank's operations within Switzerland, told reporters during a conference call.

The restructuring costs are expected to be 75 million Swiss francs. “Digitalisation is happening all around us,” Helfenstein said in a statement.

“The changes we are making to our branch network — while simultaneously investing in digital solutions and in advisory services for clients with more complex needs — represent a logical step forward.”

In late July, the bank's new chief executive Thomas Gottstein unveiled his plans for Credit Suisse, which involved regrouping its different investment bank activities.

Gottstein took charge in February after Tidjane Thiam was ousted over a massive spying scandal.

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