World Economy

HSBC Management Knew of Tax Abuses

HSBC Management Knew of Tax AbusesHSBC Management Knew of Tax Abuses

Herve Falciani, who took a trove of data from HSBC Holdings Plc that spawned investigations of extensive tax evasion by the bank’s clients, said he also has proof senior managers knew about the practices.

“I can prove, and it has to be explained, that the top management is aware and was aware of the problem,” Falciani, a software technician, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua. He declined to identify any bank executives and he declined to describe his evidence, saying only that his files provide “logical proof.”

“I don’t have documents signed by top management,” he said.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank by market value, is under scrutiny after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a report last month, based on Falciani’s data, that shows how HSBC allegedly advised customers including convicted drug dealers, arms sellers and other criminals on evading taxes and laundering money. The information Falciani, 43, took from the bank in 2008 allegedly reveals the practices of HSBC’s private-banking unit in Geneva.

The ICIJ’s release was “just a subset of the information available” to authorities in France and elsewhere starting in 2008, Falciani said in the video interview, over Skype. There is more “information to be, let’s say, analyzed in a public way,” including from an HSBC whistleblower in Luxembourg, Falciani said, without identifying the person by name.

  Geneva Prosecutors

Falciani said he may return to Switzerland to fight the charges and is in touch with Swiss politicians, without naming any, to seek assistance in making his legal case.

“We are fighting just to have the chance for me to go there, to have the chance to just really expose what is the crude reality of all that,” he said.

Swiss federal prosecutors have focused on Falciani’s deeds rather than what the information he took showed about HSBC’s practices, saying bank secrecy laws prevented them from using stolen data as evidence in an investigation. Still, following the ICIJ report Geneva prosecutors have taken action, searching the private bank’s local office on Feb. 18.

Responsibility rests with the managers in Switzerland and the relationship managers who served these clients, Chairman Douglas Flint, who was HSBC’s finance director in 2008, told lawmakers at the hearing last week.

Meanwhile, Heidi Ashley, an HSBC spokeswoman in London, declined to comment on Falciani’s allegations, referring to the bank’s earlier statements on the ICIJ report.

In a full-page advertisement published a week after the ICIJ disclosures, HSBC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver offered “sincerest apologies” for its Swiss private bank and wrote that the unit had been “completely overhauled.”

He also apologized to UK lawmakers on Feb. 25 and said the scandal over the role played by its Swiss wealth-management unit in helping clients dodge taxes was the product of a different era. Gulliver became CEO in 2011.