The central bank will try to acquire information on the Bangladeshi nationals who held accounts with HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, a top official said yesterday.
The British banking giant allegedly operated a giant tax evasion scheme via its Swiss subsidiary, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse).
The revelation comes after a former staffer of HSBC Private Bank, Herve Falciani, secreted away a list of accounts at the branch in Geneva and the conversations between the clients and the bank between 2006 and 2007.
Falciani turned the data over to the French government in 2008 and its tax authority launched an investigation. The Paris-based newspaper Le Monde obtained a version of the tax authority data, which covers accounts of 106,000 clients from 203 countries. These clients had deposits worth $102.05 billion at that time.
Among the countries was Bangladesh, which ranked 148 in terms of deposits. Around $13 million (over Tk 101 crore) were deposited with HSBC Private Bank by 16 individuals connected to the country, 31 percent of whom bore the Bangladeshi nationality or passport.
They had a total of 34 accounts, opened between 1985 and 2006, including seven offshore accounts.
Of the $13 million deposits, the maximum amount of money associated with a single client was $4.4 million (over Tk 34 crore). However, the report did not mention the name of the individual who had the amount.
It has not yet been established whether the amounts were laundered from the country.
“We will ask for data on the Bangladeshis’ accounts through the global network of Financial Intelligence Unit,” Mahfuzur Rahman, an executive director of Bangladesh Bank, told The Daily Star yesterday.
When contacted, Talukdar Noman Anwar, head of communications of HSBC Bangladesh, sent a reply quoting Franco Morra, chief executive of Private Bank Switzerland (HSBC).
“HSBC’s Swiss Private Bank began a radical transformation in 2008 to prevent its services from being used to evade taxes or launder money. New senior management have comprehensively overhauled the business, including closing the accounts of clients who did not meet our high standards and ensuring we have strong compliance controls in place,” Morra said.
“We have no appetite for business with clients or potential clients who do not meet our financial crime compliance standards. These disclosures about historical business practices are a reminder that the old business model of Swiss private banking is no longer acceptable.”
The leaks have created a lot of hue and cry across the globe, as a host of prominent personalities kept their money with the super-secret Swiss banking system to dodge taxes in their respective countries. Among the South Asian nations, India topped the list with $4.1 billion deposited with HSBC’s Swiss arm. India ranked 16th on the list in terms of balance, with the maximum amount associated with a client connected to India being $876.3 million.
The Swiss Leaks report say Pakistan is ranked 48 with $859.7 million against 314 client accounts. Nepal came in 116 with $54 million, Myanmar (Burma) 133 with $26.5 million and Sri Lanka 112th with over $58 million.
Switzerland itself tops the list with over $31 billion, followed by the UK with over $21 billion.