Bahrain’s CP is amongst them… Leaked files reveal the biggest money laundering and tax fraud scandal in history involving kings and world leaders
2015-02-10 - 7:30 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Data in massive cache of leaked secret bank account files from HSBC's Swiss banking arm was made public yesterday and on Sunday by 55 major media outlets. These revelations lifted lid on questionable practices at subsidiary of one of world's biggest financial institutions. Prominent figures, who were HSBC clients were implicated in these files, some of which were kings, princes, officials and among them was Bharain's Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
HSBC's Swiss private bank helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities, according to a huge cache of leaked secret bank account files, which was part of an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the participation of 140 journalists from 45 countries.
The files - obtained through an international collaboration of news outlets, including UK's Guardian, the French daily Le Monde, BBC Panorama, the Canadian CBC and Egypt's Al-Watan- reveal that HSBC was a popular bank among royalty. Its clients included Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and dozens of members of the Saudi royal family.
The leaked files showed that Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa had 12 bank accounts, under the names of two companies, as a stockholder. The holdings in his accounts until 2007 amounted to about $21 million dollars.
The HSBC files, which cover the period 2005-2007, amount to the biggest banking leak in history, shedding light on some 30,000 accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets.
Although tax authorities around the world have had confidential access to the leaked files since 2010, the true nature of the Swiss bank's misconduct has never been made public until now. Hollywood stars, shopkeepers, royalty and clothing merchants feature in the files along with the heirs to some of Europe's biggest fortunes.
The private-banking unit of HSBC Holdings Plc made significant profits for years handling secret accounts for an array of criminals, from drug cartels and arms dealers to tax evaders and fugitive diamond merchants, according to the report released Sunday by an international news organization.
The UK government released a statement today, concerning the scandal in the House of Commons. It is predicted that this disclosed data will incite major reactions from European governments and the US administration, and will eventually lead to the questioning of PMs.
The man behind these revelations is the 36-year-old systems specialist Hervé Falciani who was arrested by Swiss federal police on December 22, 2008, over suspicion of stealing data from HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), his employer, and trying to sell it to banks in Lebanon. They seized his computer, searched his Geneva home and interrogated him for hours.
Then - on the condition that he return the next day for more questioning - they let him go.
And go he did. Renting a car, Falciani picked up his wife and daughter and drove straight to France. There he began downloading vast amounts of HSBC data that he had stored on remote servers and that has since been causing havoc for wealthy people the world over who use offshore accounts to hide money from taxation: client names and account holdings as well as notes about the bank's conversations with them.
That day was the pivot point in a long, strange journey for Falciani, a colorful figure who has since moved from country to country on the lam from Swiss authorities - and possibly from criminal elements who mean him harm. He presents himself as a whistleblower and has attracted wide media attention; he even ran unsuccessfully for the European Parliament. He has been known to use an assumed identity, to wear disguises, and to appear in public with bodyguards. He has been jailed - and indicted: In December, the Swiss attorney general charged Falciani with data theft from HSBC, saying his intent was "cashing in."
Falciani's HSBC data trove ended up first in the hands of authorities in France, which then indicted London-based HSBC for illegal direct marketing to French nationals, money laundering and facilitating tax fraud.
The French authorities shared the data with other countries, including the US, and it is being used in tax probes and attempts to recover evaded taxes all around the world.
The guardian stated that the leaked files will amplify calls for crackdowns on offshore tax havens and stoke political arguments in the US, Britain and elsewhere in Europe where exchequers are seen to be fighting a losing battle against fleet-footed and wealthy individuals in the globalized world.
HSBC is already facing criminal investigations and charges in France, Belgium, the US and Argentina as a result of the leak of the files, but no legal action has been taken against it in Britain.
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