UK taxman probing HSBC Jersey accounts - report

LONDON Fri Nov 9, 2012 7:25am IST

Passersby walk inside HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files

Passersby walk inside HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong July 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - British tax authorities are examining details of more than 4,000 British clients of HSBC (HSBA.L) in Jersey after a whistle-blower handed them a list of names, addresses and account balances this week, the Daily Telegraph reported in its Friday edition.

HMRC, Britain's revenue service, is now combing through the list to establish whether some clients used the offshore bank accounts to avoid paying British taxes, the newspaper wrote.

The list identifies 4,388 British-based people holding 699 million pounds in current accounts and includes celebrities, bankers, doctors, mining and oil executives and oil workers, the Telegraph wrote. The list also includes about 4,000 account holders with addresses outside Britain.

HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, declined to comment on the report, but a spokesman told the Telegraph: "HSBC has a duty of confidentiality and cannot comment on clients even to confirm or deny they are clients. We have good relationships with our regulators and co-operate with investigations when required to do so."

HMRC would not comment on the details of the article, but said in an emailed statement: "We can confirm we have received the data and we are studying it. We receive information from a very wide range of sources which we use to ensure the tax rules are being respected."

"Clamping down on those who try to cheat the system through evading taxes and over-claiming benefits is a top priority for us, and we value the information we receive from the public and business community."

HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, is already under investigation in the United States for breaching anti-money laundering controls. It said earlier this week that probe could result in a fine well over $1.5 billion and lead to criminal charges as well.

Tax authorities around the world are stepping up their efforts to uncover the identities of those who avoid taxes by hiding their wealth in offshore accounts.

Last week a Greek magazine published the names of more than 2,000 of HSBC's Swiss account holders.

The Greek names came from the so-called Lagarde List, named after IMF head Christian Lagarde, who first distributed the list to Greece and other EU states in 2010 when she was French finance minister.

German tax authorities have also secured convictions against over 100 tax evaders after buying stolen data in 2010 on German clients of Credit Suisse CSHN.VX in Switzerland.

Switzerland, long famed for its strict banking secrecy laws, has been forced to bow to international pressure and strike deals with several countries allowing them to make more wide-ranging requests for information on suspected tax dodgers. (Reporting by Natalie Huet; additional reporting by Steve Slater; Editing by Will Waterman)

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