Saturday 20 January 2018

Banking: HSBC's Swiss office raided

The Geneva premises of HSBC's Swiss private bank have been searched, officials said.
The Geneva premises of HSBC's Swiss private bank have been searched, officials said.

Geneva's public prosecutor searched HSBC's Swiss office yesterday after opening a criminal inquiry into allegations of aggravated money laundering, the second probe to hit the bank this week.

Europe's largest lender is in regulators' sights after details about how its Swiss private bank allegedly helped wealthy clients evade taxes were leaked to the media and published last week.

The Geneva prosecutor said he had launched an investigation following the allegations and could extend it to individuals.

"A search is currently under way in the premises of the bank, led by Attorney General Olivier Jornot and the prosecutor Yves Bertossa," Geneva's prosecutor said in a statement.

HSBC has apologised to customers and investors over the previous failings of its Swiss business and has said the operation has since been overhauled.

Its Swiss unit has been in the spotlight since 2008 when a former IT employee fled Geneva with files allegedly showing evidence of tax evasion by clients.

The French tax authorities later passed the information to tax authorities around the world.

"We have cooperated continuously with the Swiss authorities since first becoming aware of the data theft in 2008 and we continue to cooperate," HSBC said in a statement.

It declined further comment. The bank has said compliance and controls at its Swiss private bank in the period up to 2007 fell short of requirements, but said the business had been transformed in recent years.

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