herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Irish clients among €3.1bn Swiss bank account holders

A HSBC logo is pictured at a Swiss branch of the bank, in Geneva February 9, 2015
A HSBC logo is pictured at a Swiss branch of the bank, in Geneva February 9, 2015

UNPAID taxes amounting to €4.5m have been recouped by the Revenue Commissioners following an investigation into Swiss bank accounts.

A total of 350 clients associated with Ireland held bank accounts containing €3.1bn in Switzerland.

The accounts are detailed in the Swiss Leaks project, based on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files that provide data on more than 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts.

There is nothing illegal about holding a Swiss bank account, but HSBC admitted that some individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts. It said it has now "fundamentally changed".

Ireland is ranked at number 19 among the countries with the biggest amounts in the leaked files.

The greatest amount associated with a client connected to Ireland was €650m.

In one case, an HSBC employee wrote a note in the file of Kerry-based businessman John Cashell.

"His pre-occupation is with the risk of disclosure to the Irish authorities. I endeavoured to reassure him that there is no risk of that happening," the employee wrote.

The lawyer for another businessman told the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that his client and the client's companies "have complied with all laws applicable to them and are fully tax-compliant in all jurisdictions".

prosecutions

Revenue confirmed it received the data in June 2010.

"To date, there have been 20 settlements related to the data. The total amount recovered was €4.55m. A further €174,442 has been received to date as payments on account in two ongoing investigations.

"Revenue has initiated 33 investigations as a direct result of the data received. Three prosecutions have been secured and one other case is currently under criminal investigation."

French newspaper Le Monde obtained a version of the tax authority data, which covers the accounts of more than 100,000 clients from more than 200 countries.

The newspaper shared it with the ICIJ on the basis that it would assemble a team of journalists to explore the data and produce the reporting project.

HSBC, which has its HQ in London and offices in 74 countries, initially demanded the files be destroyed.

After being told of the full extent of the findings, the bank issued a response to the ICIJ.

"We acknowledge the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC's Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were lower than they are today," it said.

hnews@herald.ie

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