Washington, DC (CBS) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday filed criminal charges against Credit Suisse, alleging the Swiss financial giant helped Americans open offshore accounts in order to dodge taxes.
Credit Suisse is expected to plead guilty to the charges and pay a $2.5 billion fine to settle the federal lawsuit. Justice Department officials are scheduled to hold a press conference to announce the settlement later tonight.
The agency said the bank set up "sham entities" for clients seeking to keep hide assets in overseas accounts. Credit Suisse also falsified and destroyed U.S. tax records to cover up the scheme, according to the suit. The company helped customers withdraw funds from the undeclared accounts by hand-delivering cash, through correspondent banks, and by providing accountholders with offshore credit and debit cards so they could illegally repatriate funds.
The penalty resolves a years'- long criminal investigation into allegations that the bank, Switzerland's second-largest, recruited U.S. clients to open Swiss accounts, helped them conceal the accounts from the Internal Revenue Service and enabled misconduct by bank employees. The case is part of an Obama administration crackdown on foreign banks believed to be helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets.
A congressional panel earlier this year attacked the federal government for not doing more to punish Credit Suisse. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations alleged that from 2001 through 2008 the financial firm helped U.S. customers hide income from the IRS and enabled other abuses.
Such criticism echoed complaints that federal prosecutors have been soft in holding Wall Street bankers accountable for their role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Holder said earlier this month that "There is no such thing as too big to jail" and highlighted what he described as ongoing investigations into corporate wrongdoing.
The Justice Department's suit against Credit Suisse is unlikely to allay criticism that the government has failed to prosecute senior bankers linked with the housing crash. That's because the allegations against the company focus on tax evasion, rather the mortgage lending and securitization practices that experts say helped trigger the housing crash.
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