Britain's biggest bank HSBC has come under fire for allegedly opening offshore accounts for a list of high-profile criminals including drug and gun dealers.
Claims that criminals have laundered the money are under a major HM & Revenue investigation after the tax authority received the information from a whistleblower. The list identified 4,388 people holding £699m in offshore current accounts, the Daily Telegraph reports. It is unknown whether the bank had reported the suspicious accounts to HMRC.
“We can confirm we have received the data and we are studying it. We receive information from a very wide range of sources which we use to ensure the tax rules are being respected," HMRC said.
”Clamping down on those who try to cheat the system through evading taxes and over-claiming benefits is a top priority for us, and we value the information we receive from the public and business community.“
The account holders are reportedly in Jersey, a British dependency off the coast of France which has its own currency and tax laws and a major offshore financial centre. Some of the criminals involved are believed to be Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer living in Venezuela, Michael Lee, convicted of possessing over 300 weapons at his house in Devon and three bankers facing fraud allegations.
HSBC also issued a statement. ”We are investigating the reports of an alleged loss of certain client data in Jersey as a matter of urgency. We have not been notified of any investigation in relation to this matter by HMRC or any other authority but, should we receive notification, we will co-operate fully with the authorities. HSBC remains fully committed to adoption of the highest global standards including the procedures for the acceptance of clients.“
The UK tax authority is already in deep water as it currently faces $1.5 billion (£938 million) in fines in the U.S. for breaching money laundering rules.