Leaked Documents Reveal HSBC Bank's Dirty Dealings with Tax Dodgers, Drug Traffickers and Arms Dealers

Posted Feb. 18, 2015

MP3 Interview with James S. Henry, senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable International Investment, conducted by Scott Harris


A team of journalists from 45 nations who investigated documents leaked by a former systems engineer working for banking giant HSBC’s Geneva, Switzerland branch, found HSBC managed secret bank accounts for criminals, drug traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities. The documents, covering the period from 2005 to 2007 revealed, according to the Guardian newspaper, that HSBC “aggressively marketed schemes likely to enable wealthy clients to avoid European taxes” and “provided accounts to international criminals, corrupt businessmen and other high-risk individuals.”

One of the news organizations leading the investigation, the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, declared that “how the offshore banking industry shelters money and hides secrets has enormous implications for societies across the globe. Academics conservatively estimate that $7.6 trillion is held in overseas tax havens, costing government treasuries at least $200 billion a year.”

HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks headquartered in London that operates in 74 nations, is now the target of government investigations in France, the U.S., Belgium and Argentina. In 2012, state and U.S. federal officials opted not to indict HSBC in a money-laundering case over concerns that criminal charges could endanger the giant financial institution. Instead, the bank agreed to pay a $1.92 billion fine. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with James Henry, a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable International Investment and senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network. Here, he discusses the investigation into HSBC’s illegal activities and the lack of accountability for politically connected financial institutions and wealthy bankers.

Find more information about Tax Justice Network at taxjustice.net.

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