HSBC offers a safe haven for arms dealers and dictators' accounts - CNBC Africa

HSBC offers a safe haven for arms dealers and dictators' accounts

Special Report

by Trust Matsilele 0

HSBC under fire for sheltering accounts of dictators and arms dealers. PHOTOS: HSBC

Zimbabwe and Egypt are some of the African countries that have been named by the report on dealings by HSBC.

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A report compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveals some of leading African dictators having managed to conceal their accounts using this banking group’s services.

“Clients who held HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland include former and current politicians from Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kenya, Romania, India, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Paraguay, Djibouti, Senegal, Philippines and Algeria,” read part of ICIJ’s key findings.

“HSBC served those close to discredited regimes such as that of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian president Ben Ali and current Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.”

According to the report, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) continued to offer services to clients who had been unfavorably named by the United Nations, in court documents and in the media as connected to arms trafficking, blood diamonds and bribery.

The banking group is said to have repeatedly assured clients that it would not disclose details of accounts to national authorities, even if evidence suggested that the accounts were undeclared to tax authorities in the client’s home country.

According to the report, bank employees also discussed with clients a range of measures that would ultimately allow clients to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.

This included holding accounts in the name of offshore companies to avoid the European Savings Directive, a 2005 Europe-wide rule aimed at tackling tax evasion through the exchange of bank information.