UK gains tax millions from leaked Swiss data

Britain has recovered £135 million ($231 million) from clients named on a leaked list of HSBC's private banking operation in Switzerland, the tax authority said on Wednesday.

UK gains tax millions from leaked Swiss data
Photo: AFP

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) told a parliamentary hearing that one person had been prosecuted from a list of 24,000 HSBC Private Bank clients leaked by former employee Herve Falciani, who said he wanted to expose tax evasion.
The leak sent shockwaves through the world of Swiss banking, long valued by wealthy individuals for its stability and traditions of banking secrecy, and led to a French probe into HSBC to determine whether it had also helped French customers avoid taxes.
The amount recovered by Britain was nonetheless substantially lower than the equivalent of £220 million retrieved by Spain and £188 million by France, according to HMRC figures.
Britain had received strong enough data to pursue up to 3,800 taxpayers for payments — ideally through voluntary settlements rather than through costly prosecution, the tax authority said.
It added that 13 investigations were ongoing.
"We are very very interested — and determined — to shake some money out of these people, but I don't think it'll all be by prosecutions," HMRC chief executive Lin Homer told the hearing.
"So far we have a yield of £135 million, but we are not finished."

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Paris court confirms tax fraud charges against HSBC

The Paris appeals court on Monday confirmed charges against British banking giant HSBC Holdings PLC as part of a tax fraud probe involving its Swiss unit, sources close to the case told AFP.

Paris court confirms tax fraud charges against HSBC
Photo: AFP

The court rejected an appeal by HSBC that charges first brought in April for facilitating tax fraud and illegal practices be dropped.
Investigating magistrates accuse HSBC of failing in its supervisory role over its Geneva-based unit HSBC Private Bank which is suspected of having set up tax fraud schemes for its customers, mostly French.
“We are disappointed by the outcome of the appeals procedure,” HSBC said in a statement.

“We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.”
HSBC Private Banking is suspected of offering its customers several ways of hiding assets from the French taxman, notably via the use of offshore tax havens.
The case began when French authorities in late 2008 received files stolen by Hervé Falciani, a former HSBC employee in Geneva whose disclosures uncorked the so-called “Swissleaks” scandal on bank-supported tax evasion. €

He was sentenced in absentia in November in Switzerland to five years in prison.
The 43-year-old French-Italian national — dubbed by some media as “The Edward Snowden of banking” — leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating the bank's Swiss private banking arm helped more than 120,000 clients hide €180.6 billion ($205.4 billion) from tax authorities from November 2006 to March 2007.

The leaked files led to investigations by tax authorities in several European countries, including Spain and Belgium besides France.
French judges have conducted other investigations into tax fraud, including into UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, which was fined a record €1.1 billion in 2014.