Finance ministry to request information on ‘Swiss leaks’ cash

Edward Scicluna says revenue authorities will ask Swiss government and other relevant sources for information on €600 million horde of undeclared cash held in HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland.

Finance Minister Edward Scicluna
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna

The Minister for Finance has announced it has asked the Commissioner for Revenue to request information from the relevant sources, on the HSBC Private Suisse bank accounts released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with various news outlets.

The information pertains to HSBC Swiss accounts as associated to account holders from various countries, including Malta.

“With respect to specific instances of suspected tax evasion, the Maltese revenue authorities are empowered to obtain further information from the Swiss government, or from the government of any EU member state, on the basis of the agreement related to the Savings Tax Directive. The penalties related to tax evasion are established according to law,” finance minister Edward Scicluna said.

From the ICIJ • Data heist reveals HSBC's Swiss secrets

Over €607 million is kept by Maltese account holders in HSBC’s Swiss banking arm, to help them evade taxes at home.

The amount was made public through an international collaboration of news outlets, including the Guardian, the French daily Le Monde, BBC Panorama and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The HSBC files have been described as the biggest banking leak in history, revealing the full scale of malpractice at HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary.

Although the €607 million is kept in 139 bank accounts that are held by 71 clients, the maximum amount of money associated with a client connected to Malta was €555 million.

Of the 71 clients, 34% have a Maltese passport or nationality.

82 client accounts were opened between 1982 and 2006 and linked to 139 bank accounts. Most of them were opened between 1994 and 1996, and spiked greatly in 2003, when Malta became an EU member.

The files feature people who figure in legal proceedings, like Tancred Tabone, the former chairman of state oil company Enemalta, who is facing prosecution for allegedly demanding bribes. In a statement to the ICIJ, Tabone’s lawyer said his client denies all charges and added that he “has formally authorised the Swiss authorities to provide all that information. … His fiscal affairs in that respect are in order.”

The HSBC files, which cover the period 2005-2007, amount to the biggest banking leak in history, shedding light on some 30,000 accounts holding almost $120bn of assets.

The Swiss Leaks project, spearheaded by thee International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is based on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files that provide details on over 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts.

The massive cache of secret HSBC Swiss private banking account files was hacked by computer engineer Hervé Falciani in 2006, who fled to France where he shared the cache with tax authorities.