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Sat Feb 14, 2015, 06:40 PM

New Claims That HSBC Aided Tax Evaders


Updated, 8:20 p.m. | HSBC found itself under fire again on Monday after news reports over the weekend provided more details about long-running accusations that its Swiss private banking arm helped clients hide billions of dollars in assets from international tax authorities before 2007.

In a report released on Sunday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an organization based in Washington, said that secret documents revealed that bank employees had reassured clients that HSBC would not disclose details of their accounts to tax authorities in their home countries and discussed options to avoid paying taxes on those assets. Also contributing to the report were the newspaper Le Monde in France, The Guardian in Britain, the BBC program “Panorama” and CBS News’s “60 Minutes.”

The documents were stolen from HSBC by a former employee in Switzerland in 2007 and were given to the French authorities, who in 2010 shared them with officials in Britain, Spain and the United States, among other nations. Some of those jurisdictions have used the information to seek back taxes and penalties from individuals, and the British bank has paid fines to the United States related to those disclosures.

The journalists’ report, based on account information that dated to 2007, said the Swiss unit’s clients included politicians, actors, rock stars and individuals with ties to arms dealers and traffickers of so-called blood diamonds, which are mined in war zones and sold in violation of international bans.

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