(WTNH)– An eye-opening report by a large, international group of investigative journalists is accusing banking giant HSBC of helping some of the world’s richest people stay rich.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) analyzed pages of secret, leaked bank files and found HSBC’s Swiss private banking division helped its customers hide millions of dollars and avoid paying taxes.
The journalists say HSBC made money by dealing with “arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.”
“These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC,” ICIJ writes in its report.
And the client list doesn’t just include international criminals. There are also former and current politicians from Britain, Russia, India and several African countries. The documents obtained by ICIJ also contain private financial records athletes, actors and corporate executives.
The reports says HSBC, which is headquartered in London and has offices in 74 countries, initially insisted the journalists destroy the files. Later, the bank responded what the ICIJ calls a more conciliatory way.
“We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” HSBC told the ICIJ.
The original files were obtained by the French government and have led to several tax evasion prosecutions. French authorities have shared that information with other countries as well.