HSBC Swiss leak reveals over €600 million in Maltese cash

Although €607 million is kept in 139 bank accounts, the maximum amount of money associated with a client connected to Malta was €555 million • Tancred Tabone named as account holder by ICIJ

Former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone, who faces bribery charges, has told the ICIJ that he formally authorised the Swiss authorities to provide all information on his HSBC bank account.
Former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone, who faces bribery charges, has told the ICIJ that he formally authorised the Swiss authorities to provide all information on his HSBC bank account.

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.

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

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.

In its findings, ICIJ said that HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) continued to offer services to clients who had been unfavourably named by the United Nations, in court documents and in the media as connected to arms trafficking, blood diamonds and bribery.

It also served those close to discredited regimes such as that of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian president Ben Ali and current Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.

The bank repeatedly reassured clients that it would not disclose details of accounts to national authorities, even if evidence suggested that the accounts were undeclared to tax authorities in the client’s home country. Bank employees also discussed with clients a range of measures that would ultimately allow clients to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.

HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, has admitted wrongdoing by its Swiss subsidiary. “We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures,” the bank said in a statement to The Guardian. The Swiss arm, the statement said, had not been fully integrated into HSBC after its purchase in 1999, allowing “significantly lower” standards of compliance and due diligence to persist.

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.

Maltese data journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia worked as web application developer on the ICIJ’s Swiss Leaks project.

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