Week 7: Villain – HSBC

by George_East on February 18, 2015

Last week’s (very belated) Villain of the Week award goes to the tax avoidance banksters of Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC

The Guardian’s revelations in a series of reports last week and this (together with Le Monde) about HSBC show, once again, how much the banking industry works against the interests of ordinary people. Only 6 years after the banking systemvillain_2_icon was bailed out on an unfathomable scale by the public purse (if only such generosity could be shown to the benighted economies of southern Europe) the sorry truth is that the banks appear to be helping to denude that very same public purse of the revenue to which it is entitled.
It is not necessarily surprising that banks and in particular those subsidiaries and parts of banking groups which are directed at servicing the needs of so called High Net Worth individuals offer various products which are tax minimising.
To some extent it is hard to object to this, when governments of both colours have sought over recent decades to encourage saving by offering tax free schemes such as ISAs and premium bonds. However, the Guardian’s revelations about HSBC go much much further than this. What HSBC are alleged to have done instead is actively collude in setting up schemes designed to obscure funds and conceal accounts from tax authorities through their Swiss subsidiary. This, if true, is not tax planning but complicit in wide scale tax evasion.
The extent of these activities has resulted today in news that even the Swiss authorities (not exactly known for their vigorous investigation of tax fraud issues) have opened a criminal investigation of HSBC for aggravated money laundering.
The whole sorry affair shows again that the power of big finance to harm the interests of the people is far greater than its ability to do good. The big banks should be broken up and laws should be passed providing for an active duty to report on clients who are seeking to shelter money through trusts and shell companies. Making tax returns public would also assist this process.

But in the meantime we are left with the conclusion that another of our biggest companies is involved in villainous acts on an industrial scale inimical to the public interest.

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