HSBC admits data theft hit 24,000 accounts

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The Independent Online

HSBC’s private Bank in Switzerland apologised to customers yesterday after disclosing that the details of 24,000 accounts were stolen by an employee three years ago.

The admission comes after the French finance ministry said last December that it had been given data on Swiss bank accounts held by French citizens. France and a number of other European Union countries have said that they would start a crackdown against nationals evading tax by depositing it in offshore accounts.

Switzerland suspended treaty negotiations with France in December because of the HSBC case. After talks in January, France returned the data to Switzerland and agreed not to ask for assistance from Swiss authorities based on the stolen information. According to the bank yesterday, French authorities have promised not to use the data “inappropriately”.

HSBC said that “a significant portion” of the information has been returned to the bank. It also promised to spend Sfr100m (£62m) on tightening its security measures.

“We deeply regret this situation and unreservedly apologise to our clients for this threat to their privacy,” said Alexandre Zeller, the chief executive of HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland. “We are determined to protect our clients’ interests and are taking every necessary measure to do so, actively contacting all our clients with Swiss-based accounts.”

HSBC said that of the 24,000 customers affected, 15,000 were still with the bank. Their financial security had not been threatened, he said.

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