French prosecutor pursues HSBC in €180bn tax fraud case

Added 4th November 2016

A French prosecutor has called for HSBC to stand trial for helping clients hide more than €180bn (£161.3bn, $199.8bn) in offshore tax havens from the country’s tax authorities, French news agency AFP has reported.

French prosecutor pursues HSBC in €180bn tax fraud case

A source close to events told AFP that the prosecutor’s recommendation names the former chief executive of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, Peter Braunwalder, along with another executive, Judah Elmaleh.

If the case goes to trial, HSBC would face charges that its private banking division offered customers several ways of hiding assets, particularly through offshore tax havens.

The bank has been accused of failing in its supervisory role over its private banking division, but further investigation led to suspicions that HSBC “participated actively in the fraudulent practices”, the source close to the investigation said.

An HSBC spokesman said: “The conclusions of the national financial prosecutor are duly noted, and we will continue our strong defence of our interests.”

Leaked files

The case dates back to 2008 when French authorities received stolen files from a former HSBC IT worker, Herve Falciani.

The documents leaked by the French-Italian national indicated that HSBC helped more than 120,000 clients hide €180.6bn between November 2006 and March 2007.

Falciani was sentenced in absentia in Switzerland to five years in prison for industrial espionage, data theft, and violating commercial and banking secrecy.

The fallout resulted in a number of investigations by tax authorities across Europe with varying degrees of success.

It was reported in February 2015 that despite 7,000 Brits being named on the ‘Falciani list’, only one had faced prosecution in the UK.

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French vs HMRC's approach to HSBC

Well, let's trust the French are somewhat more diligent in their pursuit of HSBC over its shenanigans than HMRC and the U.K. treasury.

Posted by: John Allan, 04 Nov 2016

About Author

Kirsten Hastings

Senior Reporter

Kirsten is a senior reporter for International Adviser, covering global news stories about the financial services industry. She joined Last Word Media in October 2015 after two years working as a reporter covering the staffing and recruitment industry. Kirsten has a Masters in Financial Journalism from the University of Stirling. 

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