A subsidiary of London-headquartered HSBC bank enabled tens of thousands of international clients – including hundreds of Indians – to evade billions in taxes, a global news investigation has revealed.
Documents leaked from HSBC’s Switzerland-based private banking arm reveal that nearly 1200 people from India had stashed more than $4 billion in secret Swiss accounts.
The documents include a list of names of Indians, including several prominent politicians and business tycoons, who held bank accounts with HSBC. The list was leaked to the Indian Express newspaper on Monday.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a priority to track down and bring back the estimated $500 billion in black money that have been deposited in tax havens such as Switzerland, Mauritius and Liechtenstein.
Mr Modi has also set up a special task force to track down the funds.
Among the names revealed by the Indian Express are such prominent figures as the billionaire Ambani brothers – Mukesh and Anil – Jet Airways promoter Naresh Goyal and Pradeep Burman.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday that all the names will be investigated but also cautioned that some accounts may be legitimate.
The Indian names are on a list of people from more than 200 countries with total off-shore deposits of more than $100 billion.
Details of the accounts were stolen by a computer expert working for HSBC in Geneva.
Documents obtained by several international news outlets reveal that HSBC allowed clients to withdraw large amounts of cash for deposit in foreign currency accounts in Switzerland and offered schemes that enabled rich clients to avoid taxes.
HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, has now admitted wrongdoing by its Swiss subsidiary.