Jewish group blasts Credit Suisse for sacking investigators probing bank’s Nazi links

World Jewish Congress ‘troubled’ by ‘abrupt’ decision to fire Neil Barofsky and Ira Forman, tasked with exploring bank’s alleged servicing of accounts belonging to Nazi officials

In this file photo taken on April 4, 2023, a sign of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen in Basel, on the eve of the general meeting of shareholders following the takeover by UBS of Credit Suisse hastily arranged by the Swiss government on March 19, 2023, to prevent a financial meltdown. (Fabrice COFFRINI/AFP)
A sign of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in Basel, Switzerland, April 2023 (Fabrice COFFRINI/AFP)

The World Jewish Congress came out Monday against embattled bank Credit Suisse after it fired two Jewish investigators contracted by the corporation to investigate its past links with Nazi officials before, during and after World War II, calling for the officials to be restored to their positions.

Former US federal prosecutor Neil Barofsky and former US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism Ira Forman were hired by the bank, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, to investigate longstanding allegations that the bank serviced accounts belonging to Nazi officials.

“The World Jewish Congress is troubled” by the sackings, executive vice president Maram Stern said in a statement.

“Given the Swiss bank’s repeated assurances over the past several decades that it was committed to full transparency in regard to its activities during and after World War II and the Holocaust, we are deeply disappointed that Credit Suisse abruptly fired these two highly respected individuals, who had worked to create a comprehensive report detailing the bank’s shortcomings.”

“We call on Credit Suisse to immediately reinstate Mr. Barofsky and Mr. Forman and to give them its full cooperation in completing their assigned task. Anything less will put the bank’s good faith into question,” Stern said.

US lawmakers last week accused embattled Swiss bank Credit Suisse of limiting the scope of an internal investigation into Nazi clients and Nazi-linked accounts, including some that were open until just a few years ago.

Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), speaks during a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill July 21, 2010, in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Credit Suisse said it was “fully cooperating” with the committee’s inquiry but rejected some claims from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights group, that brought to light in 2020 allegations of possible Nazi-linked accounts at Switzerland’s second-largest bank.

Despite the hurdles, the reports from the ombudsman and forensic research team revealed at least 99 accounts for senior Nazi officials in Germany or members of Nazi-affiliated groups in Argentina, most of which were not previously disclosed, the committee said.

The reports “raise new questions about the bank’s potential support for Nazis fleeing justice following World War II via so-called ‘Ratlines,” the committee said, referring to a network of escape routes used by Nazis after the war.

Credit Suisse, Paradeplatz, Zurich, Switzerland (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Roland zh CC BY-SA 3.0)

The committee said Credit Suisse “has pledged to continue its own investigation into remaining unanswered questions.”

Credit Suisse launched the internal investigation after the Simon Wiesenthal Center said it had information that the bank held potential Nazi-linked accounts that had not previously been revealed, including during a series of Holocaust-related investigations of the 1990s.

Late that decade, Swiss banks agreed to pay some $1.25 billion to Nazi victims and their families who accused the banks of stealing, hiding or sending to the Nazis hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Jewish holdings.

The latest findings come soon after Credit Suisse, a pillar of Swiss banking whose origins date to 1856, was rescued in a government-orchestrated takeover by rival lender UBS.

The emergency action last month came after years of stock price declines, a string of scandals and the flight of depositors worried about Credit Suisse’s future amid global financial turmoil stirred by the collapse of two US banks.

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