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HSBC charged in 180-billion-euro French tax fraud probe

media HSBC in New York Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

The Swiss arm of British bank HSBC has been placed under formal investigation for money-laundering and helping tax-dodgers in a Franch tax fraud probe. Investigators believe that over 180 billion euros was hidden in tax havens in 2006-2007.

HSBC Private Bank has been effectively charged with illegal banking and financial practises and laundering receipts from tax fraud, according to Le Monde newspaper.

The bank on Friday confirmed that magistrates were looking into “whether the bank acted appropriately” in relation to clients liable to taxation in France and “the way the bank offered its services in the country”.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

It has been asked to deposit bail of 50 million euros and says it will cooperate with the investigation “to the fullest possible extent”.

Investigating magistrates calculate that the bank helped over 100,000 people and 20,000 companies hide more than 180.6 billion euros in 2006-2007, Le Monde reports.

It is alleged to have used trusts and shell companies based in Panams and the British Virgin Islands to help rich clients salt away their cash.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

HSBC employees are said to have frequently visited France to seek out customers who wanted to defraud the French tax authorities.

The investigation was originally based on a list compiled by a former HSBC employee, Hervé Falciani.

HSBC Private Bank was charged with fraud and money-laundering in Brussels this week for allegedly helping Antwerp diamond dealers and other businessmen evade Belgian taxes.

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