HSBC subsidiary in laundering probe
Swiss prosecutors have opened a money-laundering investigation against a local subsidiary of HSBC following a report that the bank turned a blind eye to illegal activities of arms dealers and blood diamond traders while helping rich people evade taxes.
The Geneva premises of HSBC's Swiss private bank were searched today, officials said.
The prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into suspected aggravated money laundering against the subsidiary and against persons unknown.
The investigation stemmed from "recent published revelations" about the private bank.
Prosecutors said the investigation into HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA could be extended to people suspected of committing or participating in money laundering.
Franco Morra, chief executive of HSBC's Swiss subsidiary, said last week that it had shut down the accounts of clients who "did not meet our high standards", and that the revelations about "historical business practices" were a reminder that the old business model of Swiss private banking was no longer acceptable.
Last week's report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and several news organisations found that the bank hid millions of pounds as it helped wealthy people around the world dodge taxes.
It was based on leaked documents covering the period up to 2007 and relating to accounts worth £65 billion held by more than 100,000 people and legal entities from 200 countries.
A former HSBC employee, Herve Falciani, gave the data to French tax authorities in 2008. France shared it with other governments and launched investigations.
French newspaper Le Monde obtained a version of the data and shared the material with the ICJ, which analysed the material with other international media.
HSBC said in a statement: "We have cooperated continuously with the Swiss authorities since first becoming aware of the data theft in 2008 and we continue to cooperate."