Oops! Amid new money-laundering allegations against HSBC's Swiss arm, The Guardian reports that leaked files show that CEO Stuart Gulliver sheltered US$7.6 million in a Swiss account through a Panamanian company. While a spokesperson for the bank said that taxes were paid on these funds in Hong Kong, when asked why he used a Panamanian company to hold the funds, given Swiss accounts already offer secrecy, they declined to comment. With Gulliver stating, "the business has been transformed and standards are now up to scratch," we prsume, of course, that the PR spin will be: who better to refocus the 'new' HSBC on battling tax fraud than someone who has been there and done that...
Stuart Gulliver, the HSBC chief executive who has vowed to reform the crisis-hit bank, sheltered millions of pounds in a Swiss account through a Panamanian company and remains tax domiciled in Hong Kong.
Leaked files show that the Derby-born Gulliver, in the wake of the international controversy over its Geneva-based private bank, was also one of its clients, holding about £5m in a Swiss account.
The bank executive was listed as the beneficial owner of an account in the name of Worcester Equities Inc, an anonymous company registered in Panama, containing a balance in 2007 of $7.6m. It was through this entity that Gulliver’s HSBC bonuses were paid until 2003. He also held a second account in the name of Worcester Foundation, which had been closed before 2007.
In response to queries from the Guardian about his personal account as revealed in the leaked files, a representative for Gulliver said he had made use of HSBC Suisse to hold his bonus payments prior to 2003, when he moved from Hong Kong to London.
Lawyers for Gulliver said that Hong Kong tax had been paid on this income – and explained that he “followed this procedure because he wanted his taxed bonus earnings to remain private from his then colleagues in Hong Kong, which they would not have done if he had kept them in an HSBC Hong Kong account”.
The Guardian asked Gulliver why he used a Panamanian company to hold the funds, given Swiss accounts already offer secrecy. His lawyers declined to answer.
Gulliver’s legal representatives added that his Swiss accounts have “for a number of years” been voluntarily declared to UK tax authorities. They declined to specify the exact date they were first declared.
The banking details have emerged as the 55-year-old Oxford University graduate, who became chief executive in January 2011, is due to face questions from reporters and investors for the first time since the Guardian and other media outlets published the leaked HSBC files, which revealed misconduct at the bank’s Swiss subsidiary.
The documents, covering 2005-07, detailed how the private bank was complicit in tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, doled out bricks of cash in mixed currencies to clients, and provided banking services to criminals, drug smugglers, and friends and families of dictators.
Gulliver has already personally signed a “sincere apology” which appeared in three newspapers last Sunday, saying “the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations 8 years ago”.
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