Monday, March 23, 2015

HSBC's Misdeeds Don't Seem to End

HSBC are cheats, hypocrites and sharks.
Yet, they have the audacity to talk about their values. “At HSBC we put great emphasis on our values. We want to ensure that our employees feel empowered to do the right thing and to act with courageous integrity. By doing so we will meet the expectations of society, customers, regulators and investors” (Webpage, accessed March 23, 2015). That is just pretentious hooey!
Banking giant HSBC helped wealthy clients – many of them are prominent figures in business, film, music, sport, and even the heads of royal families – across the world evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax.
BBC probed 106,000 clients with Swiss bank accounts which had assets worth $118 billion spread out in 203 countries – thanks to whistleblower Herve Falciani who had collected thousands of pages of data between 2006 and 2007. The voluminous information was obtained by French newspaper Le Monde and these have now been passed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Guardian newspaper, BBC's Panorama and more than 50 media outlets around the world.
Offshore accounts are not illegal, but many people use them to hide cash from the tax authorities. And while tax avoidance is perfectly legal, deliberately hiding money to evade tax is not. Already, the French authorities concluded in 2013 that 99.8% of their citizens on the list were probably evading tax.
HSBC did not just turn a blind eye to tax evaders – in some cases they broke the law by actively helping their clients.
In one case, an HSBC   memo showed how the bank was apparently prepared to aid Emmanuel Shallop – later convicted of dealing in illegal "blood diamonds". One leaked memo said: "We have opened a company account for him based in Dubai".
And the bank gave one wealthy family a foreign credit card so they could withdraw their undeclared cash at cashpoints overseas.
HSBC also helped its tax-dodging clients stay ahead of the law.
When the European Savings Directive was introduced in 2005, the idea was that Swiss banks would take any tax owed from undeclared accounts and pass it to the taxman. It was a tax designed to catch tax evaders. But instead of simply collecting the money, HSBC wrote to customers and offered them ways to get round the new tax.
Richard Brooks, a former tax inspector and author of The Great Tax Robbery, said: "I think they were a tax avoidance and tax evasion service. I think that's what they were offering. They knew full well that people come to them to dodge their tax liabilities."
Of course, in the face of copious evidence, HSBC have to confess that they are "accountable for past control failures." But they said they have now "fundamentally changed". Or so we are led to believe.
HSBC also said they have completely overhauled their private banking business and have reduced the number of Swiss accounts by almost 70% since 2007. They claim they are putting compliance and tax transparency ahead of profitability – and that made my toes chortle with abandoned glee.
We are more than familiar with HSBC’s misdeeds. When will they really clean up their act?

Note: Panorama (BBC Television's current affairs program) put HSBC under the spotlight with their documentary "The Bank of Tax Cheats" on BBC One on February 09, 2015.
On Thursday, I reached my first Toastmasters milestone for this calendar year. I had attended 50 regular meetings and delivered 22 project speeches (19 CC speeches and 3 Advanced speeches).

A decent start and I am glad to note that I am conscientious about doing my speeches. I really have to work hard to be a good speaker I know there are no shortcuts.


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