602 Israelis clients of HSBC Holding plc (LSE: HSBA; HKSE: 005; NYSE, Paris: HBC), Britain's biggest bank, are among the thousands of names of clients holding offshore accounts at the bank's Jersey branch that a whistleblower provided to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. "The Daily Telegraph" says that the list also includes 527 Frenchmen, 333 Spaniards, and 117 Americans. The list contains the names and addresses of 8,474 people, more than half of whom are based in the UK.
The names of the Israeli account holders will likely be passed on to the Israel Tax Authority. Senior figures in the Israel Tax Authority told "Globes" that "whoever submits a request within the Tax Authority's amnesty for overseas account holders will not be subject to criminal proceedings even if their name is included in the list passed on by the British authorities. That is even if the request is still anonymous and the name has yet to be disclosed to the authority."
"The tax authorities have obtained details of every British client of HSBC in Jersey after a whistleblower secretly provided a detailed list of names, addresses and account balances," "The Daily Telegraph" writes. It adds that the names include Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer who is now in Venezuela; Michael Lee, who was convicted of possessing more than 300 weapons at his house in Devon; three bankers facing major fraud allegations and a man once dubbed London’s “number two computer crook."
Michael Lee was jailed in 2002, after a police raid the year before found more than 300 firearms, including Israeli Uzi submachine guns and pump-action shotguns in his Devon house.
The newspaper noted that HSBC is already preparing to pay $1.5 billion in the US for breaking money laundering rules, after a Senate investigation found that money-laundering controls were largely absent in HSBC’s operations in Mexico. The bank has also faced serious criticism for hiding Iranian transactions.
According to "The Daily Telegraph", "The list identifies 4,388 people holding £699 million in offshore current accounts and they are also likely to have billions of pounds more in investment schemes. Several celebrities and other well-known figures are understood to be identified in the client data." The newspaper adds, "Tax authorities around the world are involved in an increasingly aggressive race to obtain details of their citizens with offshore bank accounts, many of which are suspected to be linked to tax evasion or other criminal activity. An insider at HSBC in Switzerland has already sold details of the bank’s clients in Geneva to tax authorities in 2008. This led to the creation of the so-called 'Lagarde list', named after the then French finance minister, with about 2,000 Britons identified. Last week, a Greek journalist was threatened with prosecution after disclosing details of Greek account holders on the Lagarde list."
"The Daily Telegraph" quotes an analyst as saying that HSBC’s practices were a wink/nod business model that showed a profound lack of controls.
An HSBC spokesman said in response, "HSBC has a duty of confidentiality and cannot comment on clients even to confirm or deny they are clients. We have good relationships with our regulators and co-operate with investigations when required to do so."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 11, 2012
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