Sept 7 (Reuters) - Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei has said Credit Suisse told him it was closing his foundation’s bank account in Switzerland earlier this year citing his “criminal record” in China, despite the activist never being convicted of a crime.
One of China’s most high-profile artists and political activists, Ai, who now lives in Portugal, wrote in an opinion piece for website Artnet how he was first told by the Swiss bank that it would close the account in the spring of this year.
“They (Credit Suisse) did this, they wrote, in accordance with a new policy of closing all accounts with people who have had criminal records,” he said.
The bank declined to comment.
Ai helped design the 2008 Beijing Olympics' famed Bird's Nest stadium before falling foul of the communist government, which detained him for 81 days in 2011 here. He said he has never been formally charged or convicted of a crime.
Ai said Credit Suisse then called him on June 24 to say the account, which belonged to a free speech and arts foundation he started in 2016, would be closed “as soon as possible”. He said managers then referred to an interview he had done with a Swiss newspaper in which he criticised Swiss people for voting in favour of tighter “anti-immigrant policies” as a reason for the closure.
Credit Suisse declined to comment on any of his allegations, saying it does not discuss “potential or existing client relationships”.
Ai did not immediately respond to questions on whether the bank account was now closed and if he was given any explanation as to the reason for the closure changing.
Many major Western banks, including Credit Suisse, have made winning business from China’s ever-growing ranks for the ultra-wealthy a central part of their strategies. However, this has thrown up geopolitical issues for several of them when trying to stay in favour with Beijing.
Last year Reuters reported that global wealth managers, including Credit Suisse, were examining whether their clients in Hong Kong had ties to the city’s pro-democracy movement, in an attempt to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of China’s new national security law.
Like other wealth managers, Credit Suisse has made its sponsorship of the arts a selling point with its collecting-savvy clientele, acting as a patron to numerous museums in Switzerland and internationally, while also building up its own collection of more than 8,000 artworks focussed particularly on emerging artists. (Reporting by Rachel Armstrong, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Oliver Hirt; additional reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Alex Richardson)