India’s Income Tax department Issued Summons, Admits HSBC

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New Delhi:  British banking giant HSBC today said it has been served summons by the Indian tax authorities. The bank also admitted that it was being probed by tax authorities in many other countries regarding alleged irregularities by its Swiss banking unit.

The HSBC is facing a multi-nation probe for alleged tax evasion and money laundering. THE bank admitted that there could be “significant” amounts of fines, penalties and/or forfeitures imposed on it.

A leaked list of over 1 lakh account holders in HSBC’s Swiss banking unit, including 1,195 Indians, had become public in the so-called Swissleaks investigation which was based on the data leaked by former HSBC employee and whistleblower Herve Falciani. The probe revealed that HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm had helped clients in more than 200 countries evade taxes on accounts containing $119 billion.

This prompted the authorities in India and other countries to step up their own investigations. India has now joined countries like Belgium, France and Argentina, who have also launched investigations against the bank.

Last week, HSBC’s Geneva offices were raided and a criminal inquiry started against the bank for “aggravated money laundering”.

Today, the Guardian newspaper reported HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver who vowed to reform the bank, kept millions of dollars in a Swiss account. The report claimed the chief executive was a client of the Swiss arm, which has been at the centre of the controversy.

India is now waiting for Mr Falciani, who had leaked the data, to send more India-specific information.

One of the spinoffs of the scandal is the Swiss authorities’ could be more willing to share information, Mr Falciani told media.

India’s requests for information on the HSBC list were repeatedly refused citing Swiss laws that consider the data “stolen” and therefore unacceptable. But the worldwide scandal caused by Mr Falciani’s data, led Swiss justice system to take action against the bank.

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