HSBC exposed in tax evasion data leak. Some 220 customers of HSBC Switzerland had links to Romania. 11 are Romanians


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A new investigation exposes an HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm of helping royalty, criminals, terrorists, drug dealers, and even music stars such as Tina Turner and David Bowie to conceal their identities to dodge taxes, informs.

The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which obtained the documents from French paper Le Monde, found over 100,000 account holders in 200 countries listed in the data leak.

The documents shed light on the bank’s practice of courting rich depositors in exchange for protection from taxes from 2005 until 2007.

Some 220 customers of HSBC Switzerland, with total accounts of USD 1.3 billion, are related to Romania, while 11 persons have Romanian citizenship or passport, according to a report incriminating the banking institution that helped traffickers and criminal organizations to keep secret deposits and identity, Mediafax reports.

Depending on the total amount deposited by customers in HSBC accounts in Switzerland during 2006-2007, Romania ranks 39 out of 203 countries. The value of Romanians accounts amount to USD 1.3 billion, according to the report published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ).

The maximum amount of a customer’s account with ties to Romania was, in the analyzed period, of USD 829.1 million, the report said.

According to the document, HSBC Private Bank, Swiss subsidiary of the British bank HSBC, has helped over 100,000 people in 203 countries and companies to evade tax by hiding the identity of depositors.

ICIJ report is based on a list of clients of HSBC provided by a bank employee, Herve Falciani, who left the institution in 2008.

Depending on the number of depositors, Romania is ranked 62nd in the ICIJ standings, with 219 clients, placed between Luxembourg (222 customers) and Cayman Islands (212 customers). The list is led by Switzerland, with 11,235 customers, France (9,187 customers), UK (8,844 customers) and Brazil (8,667 customers).

Most data regarding the number of depositors covers the period 1988-2007, the Mediafax report says.

HSBC reportedly reassured client that its bank was a safe haven for secrets, and that it would not disclosure details of accounts to national authorities or taxmen, further reports. Files also reveal that several clients were allowed to quietly transfer bricks of cash in foreign currencies.

A recorded example in the files is the case of Richard Caring, British retail tycoon and restaurateur, who walked out of the bank with 5 million Swiss francs in a suitcase.

Seven hundred and forty Russian clients are on the list with combined assets of USD 1.7 billion, according to Vedomosti. Sanctioned businessman Gennady Timchenko, the former president of Russia’s state-owned Rosneft Sergey Bogdanchikov and the children of Boris Yeltsin’s Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin are among them. Several civil servants appear on the list, despite Russia’s 2008 law that forces officials to declare foreign bank accounts and property.

“We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” the bank told ICIJ. HSBC said that since 2007, it has gone through a “radical transformation.”

HSBC is just one of more than a dozen Swiss banks under fire for non-transparent banking and aiding tax evasion.

The European Commission, along with the G20, has made it a goal to get rid of secret banking regimes, and in October signed an agreement to end tax evasion and money laundering.

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