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Journalists reveal HSBC tax evasion schemes

09 Feb 2015

The Swiss banking arm of HSBC has been accused of helping wealthy UK customers to avoid taxes, after leaked documents were published.

A statement from the bank said it has ‘undergone a radical transformation in recent years. HSBC has implemented numerous initiatives designed to prevent its banking services being used to evade taxes and launder money’.

It continued: ‘In the past, the Swiss private banking industry operated very differently to the way it does today. Private banks, including HSBC’s Swiss private bank, assumed that responsibility for payment of taxes rested with individual clients, rather than the institutions that banked them. Although there are numerous legitimate reasons to have a Swiss bank account, in some cases individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts’.

The leaked files reveal that the bank aggressively marketed schemes likely to enable wealthy clients to avoid European taxes, and colluded with some to conceal undeclared accounts from tax authorities. The files cover the period of 2005-2007, showing information on 30,000 accounts holding £78 billion in assets in numerous European countries. Some accounts were found to be held by known drug dealers, the relatives of dictators and individuals associated with illegal diamond trade.

In another statement the bank said: ‘We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures’.