Swiss leaks suggest mass illegal HSBC tax evasion

February 9, 2015

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Swiss leaks suggest mass illegal HSBC tax evasion

HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, was last night accused of tax evasion on a major scale, aiding almost 100,000 customers to illegally avoid tax through offshore accounting irregularities.

Emergence of the “Swiss data leaks”, containing records of almost 7,000 Brits that HSBC helped avoid and evade tax to date, casts fresh doubt on HSBC’s suitability to operate as a responsible custodian of clients’ money in the UK.

Reacting to the news, Fionn Travers-Smith, spokeperson for Move Your Money, said:

“That the FCA and HMRC failed to take enforcement action is an outrage, which betrays the level of anger the UK public feel over tax evasion by big business and wealthy individuals. It’s yet another reason why so many are moving their money away from the big banks that believe there’s one rule for them, and another rule for everyone else. 

This latest scandal strips bare the error of judgement made by US and UK regulators not to cancel HSBC’s banking licence for Mexican money laundering offences in 2012, as well as undermining HMRC’s own claims to be ‘closing in on tax avoiders’.

Whilst other countries like the US, France, Argentina and Belgium take action, the UK remains beholden to the too-big-to-fail banks, talking tough but taking no action. To our shame, we have a regulatory system who’s bark is louder than its bite.

Rather than platitudes from MPs on tax avoidance, it’s high time serious action was taken to restore the public’s faith that such dishonesty will not be tolerated again.

In absence of criminal prosecution, why should the public hold any faith that regulators hold the banks to account, and not the other way round?”

The leaks also bely the claims of HMRC to be getting tough on tax avoidance in the UK. To date, only one UK resident has been charged with tax avoidance based on the Swiss leaks data, which they received in 2010.

The bank is now facing further criminal investigation yet again, having faced criminal sanctions in 2012 for aiding drug cartel money laundering, and breaking international sanctions on rogue states.

HSBC claims that it puts tax compliance and tax transparency ahead of profitability. But Sue Shelley, the bank’s former head of compliance who was sacked after raising her concerns, disagrees:

“I think the verbal messages were great but they weren’t put into practice and that disturbed me greatly,” she said.

Sue Shelley’s claim for unfair dismissal was later upheld.

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