16 February 2015
HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver has apologised for the tax avoidance scandal that has emerged over the past couple of weeks.
Calling the recent media coverage of the Swiss Private Bank’s past practices and financial affairs ‘a painful experience’ for the global banking giant, Gulliver stressed that the focus has been on historical events which do not reflect the values of the present-day company.
Gulliver said: ‘We have absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards’.
HSBC and its Swiss private bank’s tax failings came to light via whistleblowing earlier this month (February 2015).
Hundreds of pages of client data stolen by ex-employee in the IT department, Herve Falciani, in 2007 have exposed the global bank’s widespread tax-avoidance practices. HSBC helped thousands of clients avoid paying millions of pounds in tax by allowing them to hold secret undeclared accounts in its Swiss private bank.
HSBC has admitted to ‘having a number of clients that may not have fully met their applicable tax obligations’ but added that the bank had ‘implemented numerous initiatives designed to prevent its banking services being used to evade taxes or launder money’ over the years.