UK lawmakers to haul up HSBC, tax chiefs over Swiss bank allegations

Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:45pm EST
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By Kirstin Ridley and Steve Slater

LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers plan to call up the bosses of HSBC and the tax authority, HMRC, to quiz them over allegations some clients of HSBC's Swiss private bank evaded tax.

HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint and HMRC Chief Executive Lin Homer are expected to appear on Feb. 25 before the Treasury Committee of lawmakers, who watch over the financial industry. The Committee said on Thursday details of the hearing had not been finalised.

HSBC this week admitted failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss private bank after media reports alleged it helped wealthy customers conceal millions of dollars of assets in a period up to 2007.

The disclosures have sparked a political row over practices at HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, and whether it had done enough to pursue possible tax dodgers.

Several countries have said they are investigating the list of HSBC clients for possible tax evasion, although not all had access to the data. Israel's tax authority on Thursday said it was working to obtain the details of thousands of Israelis on the list.

"The (Treasury) Committee is concerned about allegations involving HSBC and its Swiss private bank," said committee chairman Andrew Tyrie.

"Banks have repeatedly told the Committee that, since the crisis, they have put in place reforms to ensure that they operate on the basis of sharply improved standards. The Committee will need reassurance that they have done so in private banking," Tyrie added.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) also said on Thursday it was open to discussing the issue with HMRC. Broadcaster the BBC said the tax authority was likely to meet both the SFO and police as it expands its investigation.   Continued...

A HSBC logo is pictured at a Swiss branch of the bank, in Geneva February 9, 2015. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy