HSBC’s Swiss arm helped its wealthy clients dodge taxes and conceal undeclared “black money” accounts from authorities, according to a report published Sunday by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The report, which uses data leaked by a former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower in 2007, states that the British multinational banking giant not only offered its services to arms dealers and diamond smugglers, it also served peoplelinked to dictators such as former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali and current Syrian President Bashar Assad. The leaked files were also obtained by a number of other media outlets, including the Guardian, BBC and the French daily Le Monde.
HSBC, which has offices in over 70 countries, reportedly assured its clients that it would not disclose their details to tax authorities even if evidence suggested that the accounts held undeclared money. Moreover, bank employees also marketed schemes aimed at helping their clients evade taxes in their home countries, including creating accounts in the name of offshore companies.
When the European Savings Directive, aimed at preventing tax evasion in the European Union, was introduced in 2005, HSBC also wrote to its customers and offered them ways to get around the new tax regime, according to the ICIJ report.
The files reportedly show that in 2007, these accounts held over $100 billion in total, including money stored in secretive offshore accounts. Over $31 billion was being held in accounts by more than 11,200 Swiss clients alone, according to the ICIJ report.