In Belgium, the Swiss branch of the HSBC bank, suspected of helping hundreds of customers to deceive the state, has agreed to pay a record fine in the country.
The Swiss subsidiary of HSBC Bank has accepted in Belgium a financial penalty of nearly 300 million euros to close a criminal investigation opened in 2014 for “serious tax evasion” and “laundering”, announced Tuesday the Brussels Prosecutor’s Office.
“The Brussels public prosecutor has concluded with the suspects the payment transaction of a sum of 294.4 million euros,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Lagasse during a press conference. The Belgian state, “victim” in the case, was also compensated in civil for the amount of 400,000 euros, she added.
According to the Belgian media, this is a record sum in this type of business in Belgium.
This agreement must still be approved by the Belgian judicial authorities in September.
Hundreds of customers helped to deceive the Belgian state
The Swiss subsidiary HSBC Private Bank SA (Switzerland), wholly owned by the Asian banking giant, was accused of helping hundreds of customers to deceive the Belgian state.
The charges retained in 2014 were significant: “serious and organized tax fraud, forgery and forgery, money laundering and the illegal exercise of financial intermediaries”.
The bank was suspected of intervening “for several years (…) to solicit and manage the assets of a wealthy clientele”, in particular, diamond dealers from Antwerp, the port of northern Belgium where the union is located a world of diamond traders.
She was also suspected of “knowingly promoting and even encouraging tax evasion by making some of her preferred clients offshore” in Panama and the Virgin Islands.
Billions of dollars
According to the Brussels prosecutor’s office, the Swiss bank’s actions clearly aimed to “circumvent” European legislation on savings income.
“More than a thousand Belgian taxpayers could be involved for amounts that would cover several billion dollars that were placed, managed and/or transferred between 2003 and today,” says the prosecutor.
According to the prosecutor’s office, such an agreement between the prosecutor’s office and HSBC avoids an “expensive and often complex” procedure.
The Brussels public prosecutor’s office is promoting the Bank’s “complete overhaul of its structures”, which notably ended its services in connection with offshore companies and set up a new tax transparency policy.
The same Swiss subsidiary agreed in November 2017 to pay 300 million euros in France to escape a trial for “laundering tax fraud”.
In the Netherlands in September 2018, the Dutch bank ING agreed to pay 775 million euros to stop an investigation for “money laundering and corrupt practices”.