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UK: HSBC chief apologises for tax dodges

Tuesday, 17 February 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Bloomberg
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Author: Bloomberg 

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC Holdings' CEO, offered "sincerest apologies" following fresh details of how the bank's Swiss unit helped customers evade taxes.

The revelations were a "painful experience" for the bank, Gulliver, 55, wrote in full-page advertisements published in several British newspapers.

"Since 2008, our Swiss private bank has been completely overhauled," he said.

"We have absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards."

HSBC has come under political fire after the publication of a report by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists this month showed details of how its Swiss unit handled accounts for tax evaders and criminals.

Gulliver, who took over as CEO in 2011, said Europe's largest lender has since toughened internal controls and cut some clients at the Swiss private bank.

Several wealthy South African investors were identified at the weekend as having accounts with HSBC.

However, those contacted for comment insisted they had met all their legal tax obligations.

According to Gulliver, HSBC has since "fundamentally changed" the way it is run, established "much tighter central control" around customers and boosted its compliance workforce to more than 7000.

The Swiss private-banking unit cut the number of accounts by almost 70%. About 106 out of 140 clients mentioned in files were no longer with HSBC, Gulliver said.

The bank is also among a group of Swiss lenders subject to a US criminal tax-evasion probe .

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