The HSBC bank has said that it will co-operate with an investigation after allegations that it helped some of its wealthy clients illegally evade UK tax by using Swiss bank accounts. The information has come from a whistle-blower within the bank who leaked data relating to 2007.
In a statement the HSBC said that:
“In the past, the Swiss private banking industry operated very differently to the way it does today. Private banks, including HSBC’s Swiss private bank, assumed that responsibility for payment of taxes rested with individual clients, rather than the institutions that banked them. Swiss private banks were typically used by wealthy individuals to manage their wealth in a discreet manner.
Although there are numerous legitimate reasons to have a Swiss bank account, in some cases individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts. This resulted in private banks, including HSBC’s Swiss private bank, having a number of clients that may not have been fully compliant with their applicable tax obligations. We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures.”
David Gauke, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said that “There are clearly questions that need to be answered about what happened at HSBC between 2005 and 2007” after Labour accused the Government of not doing enough to tackle those individuals who had evaded tax.