HSBC in Swiss tax dodge scandal

The world’s second-largest bank, HSBC, stands accused of helping clients evade taxes and conceal assets.

Another week, another banking scandal. HSBC, the world's second-largest bank, stands accused of helping clients evade taxes and conceal assets. Its Swiss private bank allegedly colluded with clients to hide undeclared accounts and allowed international criminals to park their money with it.

The information stems from files leaked by a former employee in 2008 and has emerged from a French tax authority investigation. Around 7,000 UK clients are involved. HMRC says it has clawed £135m back from UK clients using the Swiss branch of HSBC. Lord Green, who was chief executive and then chairman of HSBC from 2003 to 2010, has not commented on the affair.

What the commentators said

He is no doubt "privately appalled" that the Swiss shenanigans happened on his watch, along with the furore over helping drug cartels launder money. He must have been pre-occupied with the crisis and the mess in HSBC's US arm. But if a decent leader can't keep "the corners of his empire on the straight and narrow", it just goes to show that "our giant banks are simply too big".

But Lord Green "can't just duck all the questions", said Alistair Osborne in The Times. Back in 2000 he was one of two of HSBC's directors who were also on the board of the Swiss bank. He then "had years to change what HSBC now admits were significantly lower' standards of compliance".

In the circumstances, "he should have had enough self-awareness" to rule himself out of becoming a trade minister for the government in 2011, given that the Swiss files had been leaked and ended up in a French investigation, said Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail.

But what grates most about this affair, continued Brummer, is the UK authorities' feeble response to these banking scandals. HSBC has been involved in "activities more appropriate to the Mafia" yet nobody at the bank has been charged or tried.

Indeed, so far only one banker in this country has been successfully prosecuted, and he remains anonymous. HMRC is equally toothless. It's happy to hassle small business owners, but has yet to charge any big fish with tax evasion. "Such is the nature of modern British justice."

Recommended

Broker safety – your questions answered
Investment strategy

Broker safety – your questions answered

Cris Sholto Heaton answers more of your questions about the safety of stockbroker accounts
25 Mar 2020
How demographics affects stock valuations
Investment strategy

How demographics affects stock valuations

New research suggests that stock and bond valuations are driven by the age of the population – at least in the US.
24 Feb 2020
Do you own shares in Sirius Minerals? Here’s what you need to do now
Stocks and shares

Do you own shares in Sirius Minerals? Here’s what you need to do now

Mining giant Anglo American has proposed a cash takeover of Yorkshire-based minnow Sirius Minerals. Unhappy shareholders must decide whether to accept…
20 Feb 2020
Why investors should be “cautiously bullish” for 2020
Stockmarkets

Why investors should be “cautiously bullish” for 2020

Analysts have been out in force making rosy predictions for stockmarkets in 2020, but while there is certainly a case for optimism, investors should r…
17 Jan 2020

Most Popular

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin
Bitcoin

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin

While bitcoin is having a quiet year – at least in relative terms – its potential to become the default cash system for the internet is undiminished, …
16 Sep 2020
Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?
Stockmarkets

Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?

Can we expect to see another lockdown like in March, and what will that mean for your money? John Stepek explains.
18 Sep 2020
Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?
US Economy

Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?

The US Federal Reserve has come to the end of the road in terms of what it can do to accelerate any recovery, says John Stepek. It's over to the polit…
17 Sep 2020