HSBC issues public apology over claims it helped clients evade taxes

HSBC has issued a full-page apology in several newspapers over claims its Swiss private banking branch helped clients evade taxes.

In a letter addressed to customers and staff, chief executive Stuart Gulliver said the revelations over the past week had been a "painful experience".

The fallout from the revelations sparked a political row between the Conservatives and Labour.

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HSBC issues apology after 'painful experience'

HSBC has issued an apology for amid the ongoing tax avoidance row created by revelations on the practices used by its Swiss private banking arm, saying it has "no appetite" for clients who may seek to avoid paying their taxes or hiding their wealth.

HSBC 'helped wealthy clients evade taxes in private Swiss accounts', according to newly released files. Credit: PA Wire

In a letter addressed to customers and staff, chief executive Stuart Gulliver said the revelations over the past week had been a "painful experience".

We would like to provide some reassurance and state some of the facts that lie behind the stories. The media focus has been on historical events that show the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations eight years ago.

We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us. We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.

We must put the recent media coverage into context. A former employee of the Swiss private bank stole data more than eight years ago. Major UK media outlets have focused on approximately 140 names included in the stolen data. Many of the people mentioned have been named simply because they are well-known individuals. The vast majority of these 140 people are no longer clients.

The media has been mentioning a number of 100,000 clients. At its peak, the Swiss private bank had about 30,000 accounts.

We have absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards.

– Stuart Gulliver

'HSBC has no appetite to do business with tax evaders'

HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver has said the bank has "absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes", despite allegations of a major tax-avoidance scandal at the bank.

Gulliver said today that the bank supported government initiatives to exchange tax information and had implemented a US tax information disclosure regime, as well as undergoing a full overhaul of its Swiss private bank which the allegations relate to.

The bank is currently facing historic allegations that its Swiss banking arm helped some of their richest clients conceal assets and avoid taxes.


Minister: 'France did not restrict use of HSBC data to pursue tax evaders'

French finance minister Michel Sapin said today that France had not restricted the use of HSBC client data which it passed to UK authorities investigating potential tax evaders.

French Foreign Minister Michel Sapin Credit: Wiktor Dabkowski/DPA/Press Association Images

Sapin denied allegations made in parliament this week that suggested his country had restricted the use of banking data which could have led to tax avoidance prosecutions and said he "did not understand" why Britain's Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke had implicated France.

He said: "The HSBC data were sent to them in 2010 under our bilateral conventions.

"If the British tax authorities wanted to open a court case, they most certainly could. Then it's a matter of judicial cooperation."

HSBC chief: Bank 'sometimes failed to live up to standards'

The chief executive of HSBC has admitted that the bank "sometimes failed to live up to the standards" expected by society as it faces allegations of a major tax-avoidance scandal.

Stuart Gulliver sent a memo to staff following "painful" allegations relating to the bank's Swiss subsidiary acknowledging at times practices had not met expected standards.

Stuart Gulliver, Chief Executive of HSBC, has admitted the bank 'failed to live up to standards' Credit: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Mr Gulliver wrote in the memo: "I know the recent media coverage about past practices at our Swiss private bank and the financial affairs of some of our Swiss private bank clients has been painful for you to read and watch.

"You have been working tirelessly and with great dedication to build a stronger HSBC with fully global businesses and functions, rigorous controls and the highest global standards, all underpinned by a clear strategy to serve our millions of loyal customers.

"I share your frustration that the media focus on historical events makes it harder for people to see the efforts we have made to put things right.

"But we must acknowledge we sometimes failed to live up to the standards the societies we serve rightly expected from us."

Serious Fraud Office 'open to discussion' over HSBC

Britain's Serious Fraud Office said it was open to discussion with HM Revenue and Customs over allegations that HSBC's Swiss subsidiary helped people evade taxes.

"We are open to discussion and happy to help in any way we can," a spokesman said.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office said it was open to discussion over HSBC. Credit: ITV News


HSBC whistleblower 'raised tax concerns in 2008'

The details of 3,600 British residents with Swiss bank accounts have been looked into. Credit: PA

The bank worker who blew the whistle on the alleged HSBC tax avoidance scandal claims he first contacted HMRC in 2008 - but nothing was done for two years.

Herve Falciani, who initially obtained the information while working in IT in 2007, said authorities only have a "tiny part" of the picture.

Mr Falciani claims more "could have been done before" and there was "100-fold" more information than UK tax authorities currently have available.

A row broke out in the Commons yesterday when Ed Miliband accused Tory donors of being on a list of people who allegedly avoided paying tax.

The Labour leader has now been challenged to repeat the claims outside parliament, where he would not be protected from legal action.

HMRC looked into 3,600 Brits who had Swiss accounts

The details of 3,600 British residents with Swiss accounts were looked into by HMRC as part of the investigation into the HSBC tax avoidance scandal but only three files were passed on to the CPS, it emerged today.

The revelation came as the head of HMRC faced a grilling from MPs over why tax inspectors haven't investigated more people on the list of HSBC Swiss bank account holders.

ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills reports on the latest developments:

Miliband accuses Cameron of being a 'dodgy PM'

Ed Miliband said Cameron was surrounded by 'dodgy donors'. Credit: PMQs

Ed Miliband has accused David Cameron of being a "dodgy Prime Minister" over the HSBC tax avoidance scandal.

The Labour leader claimed seven Tory donors, who had given nearly £5 million to the Conservative Party, were on a list of HSBC account holders.

In Prime Minister's Question Time, Miliband said: "How can the Prime Minister explain the revolving door between the Tory Party HQ and the Swiss branch of HSBC? He's a dodgy Prime Minister, surrounded by dodgy donors".

The Prime Minister said he had seen the same list and the Lord who funded Gordon Brown's election campaign was on it.

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