British bank HSBC Holdings Plc admitted failings by its Swiss subsidiary in response to media reports it helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets. According to reports, the bank was used by 8,844 British customers to store $21.7 billion (£14.3 billion) with some of the money concealed from the taxman in undeclared “black” accounts and globally the list included more than 100,000.
Bank records leaked to the media show that the bank allowed customers to withdraw “bricks” of untraceable cash not normally used in Switzerland. One British customer had deposited £1 billion. The records of thousands of customers including Hollywood stars, royalty and heirs to some of Europe’s biggest fortunes have been leaked.
The names of customers published include the model Elle Macpherson and the actors Joan Collins and Christian Slater. Richard Caring, the owner of the Ivy restaurant, is reported to have withdrawn 5 million Swiss francs (£2.25 million) in cash in 2005. There is no suggestion of any impropriety by any of these people.
The records, which were stolen in 2007 by a computer expert working for HSBC in Geneva, contain details of more than 100,000 clients globally. The data was handed to Revenue & Customs in 2010 and it identified 1,100 people who had not paid their taxes.
Indian list doubled to 1,195 names
The investigation revealed 1,195 Indian HSBC clients, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the Government of India in 2011. Prominent people on the list include several top businessmen. They include Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Anand Chand Burman, Rajan Nanda, Yashovardhan Birla, Chandru Lachhmandas Raheja, Dattaraj Salgaocar, Bhadrashyam Kothari and Shravan Gupta.
Top diamond traders of the country, several of whom are now settled abroad, figure on the list, with mostly Mumbai addresses given. Among them, Rusell Mehta, Anoop Mehta, Saunak Parikh, Chetan Mehta, Govindbhai Kakadia and Kunal Shah.
There are a few account holders with political connections, most of whom deny having accounts. There is former UPA minister Preneet Kaur, former Congress MP Annu Tandon and family members of former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane - his wife Neelam Narayan Rane and son Nilesh Rane - as well as family members of the late Congress minister Vasant Sathe. Bal Thackeray’s daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray is also listed as an account holder.
The list includes hundreds of NRIs - for instance, 84-year-old stenographer Annie Meneaud, born in Kannur, Kerala, whose account was opened in Dubai and had a balance of $100,020. Then there are some mysterious HSBC account-opening statements, such as one named “H.G.P” for a Kolkata-born UK citizen who has given a Carlton House Terrace address and, as the statement shows, instructed that all transactions be kept in the bank’s safe deposit box. This 74-year old client’s balance: $133.52 million. A scrutiny shows there are 276 account holders with at least $1 million in their balance of whom 85 are residing in India. Topping the list of account-holders with an India connection is prominent London-based PIO Swraj Paul with a balance of $386 million. The lowest balance is for Gujarat-born UK citizen Naman Sarwar Malik, who has $669 in his account.