Italian police open money laundering investigation of broker linked to HSBC

HSBC under probe for money laundering
HSBC under probe for money laundering

An Italian financial broker working on behalf of HSBC in the Swiss town of Lugano is under investigation for possible money laundering in a probe linked to a wider tax evasion case, an Italian finance police colonel told Reuters.

The officer’s confirmation that an investigation has been opened followed a statement from Turin tax police, saying that police searched the home of the broker in the Northern Italian town of Lecco. It did not name the broker.

The statement said the individual is suspected of being part of a group of a dozen brokers who are alleged to have collected funds from Italian clients, deposited them in anonymous accounts in the Lugano office of HSBC and then transferred them to offshore companies in Panama, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Isles to shield the money from tax authorities.

The other 11 people are not under investigation and no other searches have been carried out, finance police colonel Ivan Bixio told Reuters.

“We are monitoring the situation but have no further comment at this stage,” an HSBC representative told Reuters in an emailed statement.

HSBC no longer has offices in Lugano.

The investigation grew out of an analysis by the finance police of the so-called Falciani list of more than 100,000 names leaked in 2008 by a former HSBC employee, sparking a US probe into whether the British bank helped Americans to evade taxes.

Herve Falciani, 44, was found guilty of aggravated industrial espionage and last November was sentenced by a Swiss court to five years in prison.

Authorities in France, Austria, Belgium and Argentina have said they are investigating the individuals on the list. According to Bixio, prosecutors in different Italian cities are still examining Italian individuals on the list in connection with possible tax evasion.

The finance police statement said that the group of a dozen brokers worked in 29 Italian cities including Milan, Turin, Genoa and Rome, and that none of them held the required Italian financial qualifications.

Colonel Bixio said the information was acquired through internal bank working papers that gave details of the business carried out by the brokers working as intermediaries.

HSBC has previously admitted failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss private bank and faces an inquiry by British lawmakers after media reported that the lender allegedly helped wealthy customers conceal millions of dollars of assets in the years up to 2007.

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