Swiss prosecutors probe Credit Suisse ahead of UBS takeover

GENEVA — The Swiss attorney general’s office says it has opened a probe into the events surrounding embattled bank Credit Suisse, which is to be taken over by rival UBS.

Switzerland’s government and financial regulators helped engineer the hastily arranged, $3.25 billion agreement that was aimed in part to help calm worries about the global financial system and will leave the country with a single huge global bank.

The attorney general’s office said today that it wanted to “proactively fulfill its remit and its responsibility to contribute to a clean Swiss financial sector.” It said that it has set up “monitoring” that would enable it to get involved immediately if any offenses were committed that come under its auspices.

The office said the probe falls short of a formal investigation and is not a criminal inquiry. The office was responding to an emailed request today for comment after the Financial Times reported about the probe over the weekend. The statement made no reference to UBS.

Both banks declined to comment about the probe.

Prosecutors said they want to gain an overview of the events surrounding Credit Suisse and to “secure and evaluate the available information” to analyze and identify any relevant offenses. It stressed that it cannot anticipate the result of the “clarifications” it has set in motion and didn’t identify any specific possible offense.

The takeover of Credit Suisse — which is set to host its annual shareholder meeting in a Zurich stadium Tuesday — has drawn both praise and criticism in the prosperous country of about 8.5 million people.

Before the bank marriage was orchestrated on March 19, Credit Suisse was hemorrhaging deposits, shareholders were dumping its stock and creditors were rushing to seek repayment.

The bank faced years of troubles that predated financial turmoil spurred by the collapse of two U.S. banks, ranging from losses on hedge fund bets to fines over failing to prevent money laundering by a Bulgarian drug ring and not reporting secret offshore accounts that wealthy Americans used to avoid paying taxes.