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Belgium accuses HSBC of tax fraud

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Belgium is investigating HSBC’s private banking arm – based in Zurich, Switzerland – for tax fraud, including money laundering, criminal organisation and acting as an illegal financial intermediary, according to financial newspaper City AM.

Prosecutors have alleged that thousands of clients – including diamond dealers in Antwerp – moved money to offshore tax havens with HSBC’s assistance, resulting in the loss of several billion euros of tax revenue. The bank has also been accused of ‘encouraging’ fraud by selling companies based in the Virgin Islands and Panama to help clients avoid European rules on savings. Belgian authorities said HSBC had ‘knowingly eased and promoted fiscal fraud by making offshore companies available to certain privileged clients’.

HSBC, whose private banking arm is already under investigation by France and the US over its clients’ tax avoidance, has previously said the fines relating to the allegations ‘could be significant’. In a statement on Monday the banking corporation said: ‘HSBC Private Bank has been notified that it has been placed under formal investigation by a Belgian judge who, along with the French authorities, is examining whether the bank acted appropriately in the past in relation to certain clients who had Belgian tax reporting requirements. Both the Belgian and French investigations have been notified in our filings previously and we will continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible.’

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