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Monday briefing: Credit Suisse leak unmasks fraudsters and corrupt politicians

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Top story: What is the Suisse secrets leak and why are we publishing it?

Hello, Warren Murray here to open the week in news.

A massive leak from one of the world’s biggest private banks, Credit Suisse, has exposed the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes. Details of accounts linked to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients all over the world are contained in the leak, which unmasks the beneficiaries of more than 100bn Swiss francs (£80bn)* held in one of Switzerland’s best-known financial institutions. The leak points to widespread failures of due diligence by Credit Suisse, despite repeated pledges over decades to weed out dubious clients and illicit funds. The Guardian is part of a consortium of media outlets given exclusive access to the data.

We can reveal how Credit Suisse repeatedly either opened or maintained bank accounts for a panoramic array of high-risk clients across the world. They include a human trafficker in the Philippines, a Hong Kong stock exchange boss jailed for bribery, a billionaire who ordered the murder of his Lebanese pop star girlfriend, and executives who looted Venezuela’s state oil company, as well as corrupt politicians from Egypt to Ukraine. One Vatican-owned account in the data was used to spend €350m (£290m) in an allegedly fraudulent investment in London property that is at the centre of an ongoing criminal trial of several defendants, including a cardinal.

The huge trove of banking data was leaked by an anonymous whistleblower to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Credit Suisse said that Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws prevented it from commenting on claims relating to individual clients. “Credit Suisse strongly rejects the allegations and inferences about the bank’s purported business practices,” the bank said in a statement, arguing that the matters uncovered by reporters are based on “selective information taken out of context, resulting in tendentious interpretations of the bank’s business conduct”. The bank also said the allegations were largely historical, in some instances dating back to a time when “laws, practices and expectations of financial institutions were very different from where they are now”. While some accounts in the data were open as far back as the 1940s, more than two-thirds were opened since 2000. Many of those were still open well into the past decade, and a portion remain open today.

Credit Suisse response to Suisse secrets disclosures available here.

* Currency conversions are based on historical rates.

Biden, Putin may meet – Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle to attend a summit aimed at de-escalating the Ukraine crisis, France’s presidency has announced. It follows weekend diplomatic efforts by Emmanuel Macron to avert a Russian invasion. The Élysée Palace said the summit “can only be held if Russia does not invade Ukraine”. The White House said Biden had accepted in principle, although “currently Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon”. Biden convened a rare Sunday meeting of his national security council. Moscow has rescinded its undertaking to end military exercises in Belarus which were due to conclude on Sunday. The Belarus defence ministry said Russian troops would stay indefinitely. We are of course live-blogging all the developments.

End of Covid restrictions – Cabinet will meet today to rubber-stamp the lifting of all remaining Covid restrictions in England. Changes are expected to include ending the legal requirement to isolate if you have Covid; ending universal free PCR and lateral flow tests; ending the national contact tracing service; and ending twice-weekly tests for schoolchildren. Boris Johnson told the BBC that coronavirus “remains a dangerous disease” for vulnerable and unvaccinated people, but it was time “to see our country really getting back on its feet”. Separately, Priti Patel has agreed to ban anti-vaxxers from “harmful and disruptive” protests outside schools and vaccination clinics. Buckingham Palace said the Queen, 95, had experienced “mild cold-like symptoms” after testing positive for Covid but was due to continue with light duties this week. And Australia has finally reopened its international borders.

SBTV founder dies – Jamal Edwards, who set up the media platform SBTV, which helped catapult grime and new artists like Ed Sheeran, Dave and Jessie J to global fame, died on Sunday morning aged 31. Edwards said he started SBTV “on a £20 phone” while he was still at school and grew it into a leading online youth broadcaster. Edwards was born in Luton in 1990 and grew up in Acton, west London.

Facebook Twitter Jamal Edwards set up SBTV, a hugely influential media platform for emerging music. Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

He received a BTec diploma in media moving image from Ealing College and worked at retail chain Topman to financially support himself while developing SBTV. A director, author, DJ, entrepreneur and designer, he was awarded an MBE in 2014 – when he was 24 – for his work in music. He was an ambassador for the Prince of Wales’s charity, the Prince’s Trust, and undertook extensive philanthropic work, including in mental health and the funding of youth centres.

Ottawa freed of convoy – Canadian police have fenced off the Ottawa city centre after evicting the “Freedom Convoy” led by truck drivers opposed to a vaccine mandate. Seventy-six vehicles had been towed, police said on Sunday, and with the end of the three-week occupation came 191 arrests and the prospect of more. Demonstrators had used hundreds of trucks and vehicles to block the city centre since 28 January.

Play Video 1:20 Ottawa trucker protest: pepper spray and scuffles as police try to clear capital – video

On the weekend police used pepper spray and stun grenades to clear most of the area in front of Canada’s federal parliament. Protesters who were filmed by police and had left the city would be held to account, said Ottawa’s interim police chief, Steve Bell. “We will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges.” Canada’s parliament is due on Monday to vote on whether to keep in force emergency powers invoked by the prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

House prices spiral up – First-time buyers are expected to lose out again in the race to buy the few properties on the market. Asking prices for homes newly listed in Britain rose by a record 2.3% in February, according to the property website Rightmove. The site said it was the biggest monthly increase in the 20 years it has kept records – the average advertised cost of a home was up by £7,785, to £348,804. The number of new property listings increased by 11% during the month, but the number of people looking to buy a property rose by 16%. Rightmove’s figures say average asking prices have risen by nearly £40,000 in the two years since the pandemic started, compared with £9,000 in the previous two years.

Today in Focus podcast: Credit Suisse, a bank for dictators, drug lords and criminals

A leak of data from Credit Suisse has shown how it provided services to known criminals and fraudsters for decades. It’s the latest huge scandal to hit the Swiss bank, say investigative reporters Kalyeena Makortoff and David Pegg.

Today in Focus Credit Suisse, a bank for dictators, drug lords and criminals Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2022/02/20-79760-20220221TIFCS.mp3 00:00:00 00:33:02

Lunchtime read: ‘It’s a curious experiment’

As Charlie Brooker releases the latest fruits of his new megabucks deal with Netflix – an interactive cartoon about a cat – the Black Mirror creator discusses gaming, nuclear war and why his generation has wrecked the UK.

Facebook Twitter Charlie Brooker: ‘Mr Dystopia? That makes me sound like a wrestler.’ Photograph: Michael Wharley

Sport

Rory McIlroy has taken aim at Phil Mickelson after the latter’s extraordinary sentiment relating to a Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway golf tour. Upon completion of his final round at the Genesis Invitational on Sunday, McIlroy branded Mickelson’s words “naive, selfish, egotistical, ignorant”. The Manchester United manager, Ralf Rangnick, condemned the unsavoury scenes that led to Anthony Elanga being struck by a coin from the Leeds United stand during a fiery contest at Elland Road on Sunday, with the hosts investigating the incident.

Dreaming is for free, as someone round these parts once said, and Daniel Podence’s second-half winner means Wolves are now two points behind fifth place in the Premier League with two games in hand and both Arsenal and West Ham, the two teams immediately above them, to play away this coming week. The former England midfielder Jack Wilshere has joined Danish club Aarhus. There may have been some raised eyebrows at the Lionesses’ unusual starting XI to play Spain but a gutsy and focused performance against a team laden with Barcelona’s Champions League winners earned a 0-0 draw and demonstrated there is serious depth to England’s squad looking ahead to the European Championship this summer. If there is one man England’s rugby team are keen to see back fit and singing the anthems at Twickenham, it is Manu Tuilagi.

Business

Asian shares have mostly been lower after a retreat on Wall Street. Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai declined while Sydney advanced. At time of writing, futures trading suggests the FTSE will open higher while the pound is worth $1.362 and €1.198.

The papers

The Guardian’s joint Credit Suisse investigation is promoted heavily on page one today. Also on the front: “Last-ditch talks as fears of Ukraine war intensify”. The Queen’s Covid diagnosis is on the front too, and in the conservative press it’s big news that ties in well with the clamoured-for end of England’s coronavirus restrictions. “Queen’s Covid example to us all”, says the Daily Mail. The Telegraph has “Queen vows to carry on working with Covid”.

Facebook Twitter The Guardian’s front page, Monday 21 February 2022

“Queen catches Covid in castle outbreak”, says the Express. The Mirror has “Queen gets Covid but she carries on” and the Metro’s headline is similar: “One keeps calm and carries on”. The Sun puts a foot wrong with “HRH to WFH” – the correct royal style is HM, for Her Majesty. The Times leads with “PM’s ‘pride’ as all restrictions lifted” while the Queen’s diagnosis is an inset panel to that story. In the i they have “Queen still at work with Covid”. The situation on the Ukraine-Russia border is also on fronts of course, and it is the lead in the Financial Times: “Belarus says Russian troops will stay as west seeks Ukraine talks”.

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