Credit Suisse: Top executive at Swiss bank resigns over spying scandal

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A top executive at Swiss bank Credit Suisse has resigned over a spying scandal that has taken in a suicide, a public confrontation in a Zurich street and an open rift between two of the country’s most prominent bankers.

Credit Suisse said on Tuesday that chief operating officer (COO) Pierre-Olivier Bouée has stepped down after admitting that he alone initiated surveillance of Iqbal Khan after the former head of wealth management at the bank left and joined rival UBS.

An internal investigation found that Mr Bouée arranged the snooping by private detectives from 4 September to see if Mr Khan was trying to poach employees or clients from Credit Suisse. “The COO said that he alone, in order to protect the interests of the bank, decided to initiate the observation of Iqbal Khan,” the bank said in a statement on its website. “The board of directors considers that the mandate for the observation of Iqbal Khan was wrong and disproportionate, and has resulted in severe reputational damage to the bank.”

Swiss media have reported that the banker got out of his car and started taking pictures of the private detective’s licence plate. The investigator then insisted that Mr Khan stop doing that and told him to hand over his phone, but Mr Khan started to shout out for police help and the detective left.

A criminal investigation has been opened into the incident, the bank said.

In a darker twist, on Monday evening it emerged that a Credit Suisse contractor who hired the private investigators on behalf of the bank killed himself. The man took his own life on 24 September, according to Thomas Fingerhurth, a lawyer for private investigative firm Investigo.

Media have also reported that the spying was related to personal differences between Mr Khan and Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam, but the bank’s investigation, carried out by a law firm, found no evidence of that.

Mr Khan, who came to Switzerland from Pakistan at the age of 12, was a long-time close ally of Mr Thiam, a native of the Ivory Coast, before the two fell out this year. People familiar with the situation told Bloomberg the pair had an argument during a party at Mr Thiam’s house in January.

The Credit Suisse investigation did not find any indication that Mr Thiam had approved the surveillance of Mr Khan nor that he was aware of it before it was aborted. Neither was there any evidence that Mr Khan had attempted to poach the bank’s employees or clients in breach of his contractual obligations, Credit Suisse said.