Credit Suisse
© Keystone / Michael BuholzerFILE PHOTO
The former Credit Suisse banker told a Swiss court that she had informed her managers of two murders mentioned in the local press that were attributed to Banev. Her concerns were allegedly dismissed and the bank went on to do business with Banev.

In the first criminal trial of a major bank in Switzerland, Credit Suisse and the former banker face charges of allowing an alleged Bulgarian cocaine trafficking gang to launder millions of euros.

Prosecutors say a drug ring, headed by the former Bulgarian wrestler Banev, laundered CHF146 million ($158 million) through Credit Suisse, including large sums of cash in suitcases, between 2004 and 2008. Two alleged members of the cocaine-smuggling ring and two former bankers, from Credit Suisse and Julius Bär, are in the dock for the four-week trial at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, canton Ticino.

In an email from 2005 read out in court last week a Credit Suisse banker played down press reports linking the murder of one of Banev's associates a month earlier with drug trafficking.

"After the homicide we have decided to continue the business relationships," a Credit Suisse banker wrote in the email. "The said (short and imprecise) article linking the murder to Spanish cocaine... has not been confirmed."

Around two years later, the victim's mother was also murdered just before she was due to testify against Banev. This development was what prompted the female banker under trial to raise the matter with her managers.

Both the bank and the accused female banker deny any wrongdoing. Credit Suisse disputes the illegal origin of the money, a source familiar with its thinking has told Reuters, saying that Banev and his circle operated legitimate businesses in construction, leasing and hotels.

The proceedings, which began last Monday, continued this week and are scheduled to run until early March.