Friday, March 13, 2015

French Prosecutor Wants to Charge and Try HSBC's Swiss Unit for Tax Crimes in France (3/13/15)

It is reported that a French prosecutor has requested a trial of HSBC's private bank for assisting French taxpayers in evading French tax.  See Angelique Chrisafis & Sean Farrell, HSBC's Swiss private bank: French prosecutor formally requests trial (3/13/15), here.

I am not familiar with the Swiss criminal system (nor its civil system either), so I cannot offer meaningful comment beyond that presented in the article.  The excerpts I found particularly meaningful from my perspective are:
The French financial state prosecutor has requested that HSBC’s Swiss private bank be sent to criminal trial over a suspected tax-dodging scheme for wealthy customers.
The recommendation follows a lengthy investigation by local magistrates into alleged tax fraud involving 3,000 French taxpayers and is a procedural step that brings the Swiss banking arm one step closer to a possible trial in France. 
The parent company HSBC, which faces a separate ongoing French investigation, said: “This is a normal step in the judicial procedure and the outcome of the matter is not determined as of today.” 
The bank has one month to respond after which French magistrates will take the final decision on whether to hold a trial.  
Le Monde reported that HSBC refused a plea deal that would have avoided a trial. It said HSBC would have had to pay a €1.4bn fine as part of that deal. 
* * * * 
The scandal at HSBC’s Swiss bank came to light when the Guardian and other media organisations around the world published revelations from leaked files. The files showed that the Swiss operation enabled clients to evade and aggressively avoid taxes and withdraw “bricks” of cash without question. 
HSBC faces 10 separate inquiries around the world into the scandal. The US Department of Justice is considering criminal charges against the bank and its clients and the bank is under investigation in Brazil, India, Belgium and other jurisdictions.
The article notes that one Swiss prominent French citizen, her daughter and an accountant have already been tried in "a special new Paris court to deal with tax fraud."  The trial has been held and the prosecutor has recommend that the prominent French citizen be sentenced to two years in prison.  (I wonder whether inmates in French prisons or other incarceration facilities can get the occasional glass of wine.)

Thanks to gottaloveUStax1 for calling the article to our attention.

Please note that I have used a tag called offshore evasion.  That was meaningful when the Swiss bank brouhaha erupted in the U.S., the first to bring the force of justice to banks which were then offshore.  Perhaps a better description now that other countries aggrieved by Swiss bank (and other country bank) misbehavior have joined the fray would be cross-border evasion that might even include too aggressive transfer pricing.


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  2. Interesting article on HSBC shutting Jersey accounts of UK residents, which, to be honest, makes sense. It should be noted that they are not shutting the accounts of Jersey residents who happen to be English citizens (marked contrast with FATCA and perhaps support for the oft discussed FATCA exemption around accounts where a US expat resides)

  3. I have a comment about FATCA, and didn't know where to post it.
    I have recently spoken with 3 European banks (one in Switzerland.) One said that under FATCA they are not sending 1099s to the clients, but only sending that information to the IRS; two said theywould be sending it soon (it is now mid_March 2015; US banks must send 1099s by Jan.31.
    As to communicating with clients in the US, one bank says they cannot take any buy/sell orders or even balance inquiries, one allows balance inquiries but not orders, a third allows both, however they do not allow purchase of any ETFs (US or foreign) or securities with a US ISIN (issued in the US) or even foreign securities issued by a US company, but outside the US.
    One bank will not issue checks in USD; the other two will.
    Just to illustrate the confusion and multiple interpretations of FATCA.
    Most banks of course will not deal with US persons unless resident in that country (and often only those resident in the bank's trading area (city, province or canton.)


    It is a recent release which I haven't seen discussed elsewhere.Tax Havens: International Tax Avoidance and Evasion
    Jane G. Gravelle Senior Specialist in Economic Policy
    January 15, 2015
    Congressional Research Service
    It has quite a history of tax proposals which are claimed as having originated from the Obama administration.
    Plus a history of the dastardly ones we know of (Ex Patriot Act, MAP 21, etc)

    Lots of unconstitutional solutions upon 7.6 million US citizens and 10's of millions of immigrants, in order to chase after a small quantity of bad guys.
    This one pulls its own unfootnoted number for total tax evasion out its whazoo.
    Don't get bogged down by the corporate discussions. The individual discussions coe in the last pages.
    You'll learn about the history of the attack on expats and that the dastardly proposals have not gone away.

  5. Anon,

    Thanks for calling the publication to my attention and to the attention of the readers. I have not read it yet, but did skim the table of contents. It covers a lot of the bases that I and readers of this blog are interested in.

    And, Jane Gravelle is incredibly good at what she does. I expect this article to be first class and will likely write on it later.

    Thanks for calling it to our attention.

    Jack Townsend


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