French investigate HSBC over possible tax dodging

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2014 10:12 AM

PARIS (AP) — HSBC bank was placed under formal investigation in France over services it offered to clients required to pay taxes in France, just days after the private banking branch was charged in Belgium with organized fiscal fraud.

Switzerland-based HSBC Private Bank said Friday that French investigators demanded a 50 million euro ($62 million) bond. The office of France's financial prosecutor confirmed that an investigation was opened on Tuesday.

France's government is increasingly cracking down on tax dodgers, including establishing an office dedicated solely to investigating financial crimes.

HSBC said the investigation involves the bank's actions in France from 2006 to 2007. HSBC, Europe's largest bank by market value, has had similar problems in recent years.

Two years ago, it agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine in the U.S. to settle a money-laundering probe. It faced accusations it transferred funds through the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations such as Iran that are under international sanctions.

In Belgium, prosecutors said the private banking branch is suspected of "promoting and encouraging fiscal fraud" by putting offshore companies in Panama and the Virgin Islands at the disposal of clients. It said the companies were created to hide clients' assets.


(An earlier version incorrectly spelled the name of the bank )