HSBC tax scandal: Britain's government just refused to get involved

The huge HSBC bank account leak by whistleblower Hervè Falciani has, so far, led to only one person being prosecuted in the UK. This is out of 1,000 HSBC clients suspected of committing tax evasion in the country.

Britain’s main opposition Labour stridently called for the Conservative-led government to “explain” how much it knew about HSBC’s Swiss banking operations helping Britons evade tax and called the Treasury a light touch.

Meanwhile, the public threw major support behind Labour’s open letter.

According to a YouGov survey for t
he Times Red Box, 62% wanted the UK Chancellor answer questions over Britons hiding cash away from the taxman by using HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary.

However, while speaking in London’s Tate Gallery in London to talk about Britain’s economy, the UK Chancellor squashed any chance of the government getting directly involved with the HSBC scandal.

“I don’t think it would be right and actually. When you pause to think about it, I think most people would agree [that] I don’t think it would be right for a chancellor of the exchequer to direct prosecutions against individuals or individual companies,” said George Osborne.

“We resourced HMRC accordingly and as a result prosecutions are up fivefold.”

Falciani handed over 100,000
HSBC client accounts to French authorities in 2008. In total, the accounts are worth £78 billion in assets.

France has managed to recover £188 million in taxes and fines, so far, while Spain clawed back £220 million.

In 2010, the UK’s HMRC received bank account details around 1,000 Britons that were accused of evading tax by using the HSBC Swiss subsidiary.

However, HMRC did not tell the Financial Conduct Authority of the documents, citing an “international treaty agreement” with France for prohibiting it from passing on details to anyone outside the tax authority.

Since 2010, Britain has only regained £135 million from the Falciani data leaks and only one person has been prosecuted.

Meanwhile, police raided HSBC’s Switzerland office in Geneva on February 18.

Switzerland’s prosecution office in Geneva confirmed it was investigating “HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA and persons unknown for suspected aggravated money laundering.”

An HSBC representative told Business Insider: “We have cooperated continuously with the Swiss authorities since first becoming aware of the data theft in 2008 and we continue to cooperate.”

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