European Tax Dodgers are in their Thousands-HSBC Leak Reveals
The gigantic HSBC bank has come under fire after it was revealed that the private arm of the company’s Swiss chapter allowed customers in their thousands to evade tax and engage in money laundering activities not only linked to arms trafficking, but also terrorism in arguably the biggest leak of its own kind in the banking history.
The huge account data cache was firs leaked in late 2007 to the French government by Hervé Falciani, former IT specialists at HSBC. By 2014, the papers leaked by the Franco-Italian whistleblower landed in the hands of Le Monde, a French newspaper who immediately, together with the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) jointly with over 50 media relation institutions across the globe launched a very thorough investigation.
The result was a document that brought into the fore details of about 7,500 evaders from Italy, 7,000 from Britain, 6,000 from France, 4,600 from Belgium, 300 from Denmark and 80 from Finland who had accounts with the HSBC Swiss arm, lots of which were not known by the taxman. Essentially, all the 30,000 accounts investigated held assets to the tune of $120 billion.
Celebrities with an account with the private Swiss arm
There were celebrities who had accounts in the private Swiss arm of HSBC, who include Elle MacPherson, a supermodel, singers Tina Turner, Phil Collins and David Bowie, sports stars such as Diego Forlan, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. Others include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI as much as none of these well known public figures have been accused of evading the taxman or any offense.
Terrorism and criminal support
As per the finding of the Swiss Leaks by the ICIJ, in 2006 HSBC was managing accounts that had millions of dollars belonging to a businessman from Saudi Arabia who was suspected to have donated funds in 2001 to Osama Bin Laden as well as opening accounts for a crystal meth criminal gang from the United States including accounts for a drug dealer who had been convicted.
According to the ICIJ, HSBC made lots of profits from carrying business with all kinds of people, including arms dealers whose mortar bombs were being channelled to African child soldiers, bagmen for dictators from the third world, blood diamond traffickers as well as lots of other global outlaws.
However, it is worth noting off-shore accounts are legal but to hide funds deliberately from the taxman or authorities is a criminal offence in virtually all countries. In fact, Switzerland takes tax evasion as an infringement of the law that can be punished by extra taxation or fine as tax authorities think is appropriate.
Some countries have taken legal action against the tax evaders
Belgian sources indicate that the country was deprived about €6 billion in terms of revenue while rich Danes hid over $730 million. Of all countries, France has 60 cases ongoing against people appearing in the list by Falciani while the U.S, Argentina and Belgium have started criminal investigation into the practices of the bank. However, the United Kingdom is yet to respond with any legal action against perpetrators from the region.