HSBC Swiss accounts ‘only the tip of the iceberg’

Media leaks on HSBC accounts held in Switzerland “are only the tip of the iceberg”, Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who supplied information on the bank’s clients and their tax situation, has told French daily Le Parisien.

HSBC Swiss accounts ‘only the tip of the iceberg’

Falciani said tax authorities have had access to much more data than media outlets, including French daily Le Monde and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Asked if more clients were involved than the 106,000 identified by Le Monde, Falciani said: “Of course, there are many more than the journalists had. There were millions of transactions [between banks] in the documents I gave [to the government].”

HSBC client data obtained by Falciani, who used to work in IT at HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, is at the centre of a storm over the British bank. On Sunday, HSBC admitted failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss private bank and faces investigation by US authorities and British lawmakers after media reports said it helped wealthy customers conceal millions of dollars of assets in a period up to 2007.

French authorities have repeated since the latest media leaks they had already been looking into HSBC’s Swiss accounts. Questioned by lawmakers about what the French government was doing with the leaked data, budget minister Christian Eckert said it had passed more than 100 cases to judicial authorities. The French government says it is now collecting €2bn a year in tax and fines from people who are coming clean with accounts held abroad which they had previously hidden from tax authorities.

More work needs to be done at an international level on “tax optimisation” by global multinationals, Eckert told the lawmakers. He had told Europe 1 radio earlier yesterday that it was hard to say how widespread the question of hidden bank accounts was.

“It’s hard to quantify what is hidden,” he said.

It emerged over the weekend that 20 Irish individuals had made settlements with the Revenue for a total of €4.5m when it was discovered they had not declared that they were the beneficial holders of these HSBC Swiss bank accounts.

Over €100bn in total was held in HSBC’s Swiss private bank.

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