According to Law360, HSBC Holdings PLC could be hit with fines exceeding $1.5 billion from investigations around the world into allegations of tax evasion and money laundering at its Swiss private-banking subsidiary and other operations, according to the bank's annual report published Tuesday.
Tax agencies, regulators and law enforcement authorities in the U.S., Belgium, Argentina, India and Spain are investigating or reviewing HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA and other HSBC companies, the bank revealed. It warned investors that other jurisdictions could launch their own probes.
Allegations the bank is facing include tax evasion or tax fraud, money laundering and soliciting of unlawful cross-border banking, much of it centered on its Swiss private-banking unit.
"Management’s estimate of the possible aggregate penalties that might arise as a result of the matters in respect of which it is practicable to form estimates is up to or exceeding $1.5 billion," the annual report said. "Due to uncertainties and limitations of these estimates the ultimate penalties could differ significantly from this amount."
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and media partners around the world reported in 2015 on documents provided by a former bank employee that purportedly show HSBC’s Swiss arm helped clients get around tax authorities in their home countries and instructed them how to evade a European Union tax on bank deposits.
HSBC’s outgoing chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, said on Tuesday that the bank has worked hard to improve its compliance capabilities and has made preventing financial crime a priority for the group’s management.
- Make a complete disclosure of their cross-border activities;
- Provide detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest;
- Cooperate in treaty requests for account information;
- Provide detailed information as to other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed;
- Agree to close accounts of account holders who fail to come into compliance with U.S. reporting obligations; and
- Pay appropriate penalties.
- facilitating interviews that their Office with employees, including top level executives;
- voluntarily producing documents in response to the Office’s requests;
- providing, in response to a treaty request, unredacted client files for the U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at their Banks or Financial Instruction; and
- committing to assist in responding to a treaty request that is expected to result in the production of un-redacted client files for U.S. taxpayer-clients who maintained accounts at these Banks and Financial Instructions and with these Foreign Financial Advisors.
Read more at: Tax Times blog