Thousands of wealthy clients were helped to avoid tax by HSBC’s private Swiss bank, leaked documents reveal.
Accounts of over 100,000 international clients leaked by a whisteblower in 2007 uncovered up to 1,100 UK residents who had not paid their taxes, according to the BBC’s Panorama programme.
The documents also show how HSBC bankers helped clients evade tax including tips to help them get around the 2005 European Savings Directive, which tried to force Swiss banks to send tax on undeclared accounts to the taxman.
HM Revenue & Customs identified the tax evaders in 2010 but only one has been prosecuted, though the tax office says £135m in tax, interest and penalties have since been paid by those who hid their assets in Switzerland.
HSBC told the BBC it has already completely overhauled its private banking business and cut the number of Switzerland-based accounts by nearly 70 per cent since 2007.
A statement from the bank said: “HSBC has implemented numerous initiatives designed to prevent its banking services being used to evade taxes or launder money”.
Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “I just don’t think the tax authorities have been strong enough, assertive enough, brave enough, tough enough in securing for the British taxpayers the monies that are due.”
In November, it was revealed the bank had set aside £237m in preparation of the outcome of an FCA investigation into the manipulation of foreign exchange markets.