HSBC reveals it is being probed for helping clients dodge taxes

London, United KingdomUpdated: Feb 26, 2017, 11:53 AM IST

File photo: HSBC bank Photograph:(Others)

Banking giant HSBC has revealed it is being investigated for helping individuals in evading taxes, including four Indians and their families. 

But the bank did not disclose the identity of the four Indians.

HSBC said tax enforcement officials in the US, France, India, Belgium and Argentina are hot on their heels to investigate potential irregularities.

Providing further information, the bank said Indian taxmen had sent notices to the bank in August 2015 and November 2015 to state they had "sufficient evidence to initiate prosecution" against HSBC Swiss Private Bank and an HSBC company in Dubai.

HSBC further said it had set aside $773 million as a provision for various tax- and money laundering-related matters.

The bank first came under the spotlight when a leaked list containing several names made its way to several governments across the world, including India. The leaked list triggered several dispensations to launch probes against the list of individuals as they believe that several of them might be involved in stashing away cash to dodge taxes.

In 2015, a leaked list, also known as the 'Lagarde list', detailed how the bank helped its customers circumvent domestic tax laws and hide millions of dollars. The list had list of about 30,000 accounts holding roughly $120 billion of asset.

It is important to mention that tax avoidance is legal but deliberately concealing wealth to evade taxes is not.

The probe was widened after Panama Papers -- another leaked trove of documents listing names of individuals and entities who have offshore accounts -- released last year.

The banking giant had admitted in the past that it was responsible for "past control failures" but insisted that it had streamlined its system since. The bank said it had reduced its client base by almost 70 per cent to avoid colluding with individuals who earlier looked to use the fabled secret Swiss bank accounts in a discreet manner.

(WION with innputs from PTI)