Fresh money laundering inquiry for HSBC amid fears

Former HSBC boss Lord Green has called for an ‘ethically strong’ financial system – as the bank faces fresh money laundering allegations, writes James Salmon.

It is the first time the outgoing Trade Minister has spoken about morals in banking since HSBC, where he was chief executive then chairman, was fined £1.2bn for money laundering.

‘What we need in this economy is a robust, stable, profitable and ethically strong banking industry,’ he said.

HSBC has said it is cooperating with Belgian authorities after a number of dawn raids were carried out on diamond dealers in Antwerp as part of a sprawling tax evasion investigation which focuses on the British High Street giant.

The dealings between gem traders and bankers have come under increased scrutiny amid fears they are being used to hide wealth from tax authorities.

Last month there were reports that of almost 3,000 secret Swiss accounts at HSBC on the list obtained by former Geneva-based HSBC employee Herve Falciani, 70 per cent were held by diamond dealers.

It is the latest twist in a criminal inquiry that has dragged on since 2008 after Falciani allegedly stole the records of HSBC customers suspected of dodging tax.

This became known as the Lagarde List after the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, who passed it on to Greek officials to help them crack down on tax evasion.

In 2009 police raided Falciani’s French home and found computer files on 130,000 potential tax evaders.

The French government then passed on the information to selected European governments.

An HSBC spokesman said: ‘We are cooperating with the Belgian authorities. We take compliance with the law very seriously and seek to ensure that our services are not misused for illicit purposes, including tax evasion.’

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