Credit Suisse snared in international tax probe

Gold bars were seized during the raids

AMSTERDAM/ZURICH, March 31 (Reuters) - Swiss bank Credit Suisse has been dragged into yet more tax evasion and money laundering investigations, after a tip-off to Dutch prosecutors about tens of thousands of suspect accounts triggered raids in five countries.

Dutch investigators reportedly seized administrative records along with the contents of bank accounts, immovable property, jewelry, a luxury auto, expensive paintings and a gold bar from houses in four Dutch towns and cities.

Credit Suisse has previously been hit hard in tax probes.

Credit Suisse had earlier said local authorities visited its offices in Amsterdam, Paris and London.

"The sheer volume of data and its worldwide scope makes this an exceptional case", said Thierry Boitelle, a lawyer with Bonnard Lawson in Geneva.

Authorities in Europe and Australia announced a sweeping tax evasion probe Friday reportedly targeting Credit Suisse clients and senior employees, as investigators detailed arrests and the seizure of artworks and gold.

"Yesterday, during internationally coordinated operations, the FIOD searched houses of persons with undeclared savings and seized administrative records from the Swiss bank", it said, referring to the Dutch tax investigation body.

It said later it had launched an internal probe.

"The attorney general expects a written explanation from the relevant leading Dutch authorities and is examining further actions", the OAG said in an emailed statement. She added that they received no information about Swiss residents.

The bank said it has "implemented Dutch and French voluntary tax disclosure programs and exited non-compliant clients", and has applied a withholding tax agreement with the United Kingdom since 2013. Bank officials declined to comment further. Under the OECD's Automatic Exchange of Information, banks pass on information to local tax agencies, which then share it with foreign counterparts. Credit Suisse was fined $3.4 billion in the U.S. in 2014 and pleaded guilty to helping Americans evade taxes.

The latest tax crackdown takes place years after the second largest Swiss bank was hopeful it had put its tax-evasive days in the past.

This isn't the first time that Credit Suisse Group AG (ADR) has been accused of helping customers avoid taxes.

Neither the Dutch nor the British disclosed the name of the bank involved. Switzerland changed its rules on banking secrecy for foreigners after a US led effort to crack down on tax cheats uncovered large-scale evasion assisted by Swiss banks. The country's bank secrecy laws have allowed it to develop into a tax haven.

Dutch officials are now looking into 3,800 people among 55,000 who had money stashed in an unnamed Swiss bank.