London: HSBC, Britain's biggest bank, is at the centre of a major Revenue and Customs investigation after it opened offshore accounts in Jersey for "serious criminals" living in the country, The Telegraph reported Friday.
The tax authorities have obtained details of every British client of HSBC in Jersey after a whistleblower secretly provided a detailed list of names, addresses and account balances earlier this week, the paper claimed.
The Telegraph understands that among those identified on the list are Daniel Bayes, a drug dealer who is now in Venezuela; Michael Lee, who was convicted of possessing more than 300 weapons at his house in Devon; three bankers facing major fraud allegations and a man once dubbed London’s “number two computer crook".
A series of other accounts containing six-figure deposits are also registered to modest addresses in relatively poor parts of the country.
The disclosures raise serious questions about HSBC's procedures in Jersey, with the bank already preparing to pay fines of around USD 1.5 billion in America for breaking money laundering rules, the paper said.
The bank is legally obliged to report to the authorities any suspicions about the source of money deposited in its accounts.
A spokesman for the bank told the newspaper: "HSBC has a duty of confidentiality and cannot comment on clients even to confirm or deny they are clients. We have good relationships with our regulators and co-operate with investigations when required to do so".
The Revenue and Customs department is now understood to be trawling through a list of the names and addresses of more than 4,000 people based in Britain who had bank accounts at HSBC in Jersey, the paper said.
This work is expected to lead to the identification of hundreds of people who are allegedly evading tax as the accounts have not been previously disclosed, the daily said.
Last night, a spokesman for HMRC told the newspaper: "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.
"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".
A list produced by the paper identifies 4,388 people holding 699 million pounds in offshore current accounts and they are also likely to have billions of pounds more in investment schemes. Several celebrities and other well-known figures are understood to be identified in the client data.
First Published: Friday, November 9, 2012, 19:09