HSBC chiefs may face MPs over tax avoidance claims

Public Accounts Committee announces urgent inquiry

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The Independent Online

Senior bosses at HSBC, including the Government’s former trade minister Lord Green, face being hauled before Parliament over claims that the bank helped wealthy clients avoid millions of pounds in tax liability.

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, announced that it would hold an urgent inquiry into tax practices at HSBC ahead of the election.

Among those expected to be called to give evidence is Lord Green, who was in charge of the bank at the time before being appointed as a minister by David Cameron in 2010.

Ms Hodge was  explicitly  critical of the Government, which said it would be difficult to prosecute any of the British clients named among 30,000 accounts holding almost £78bn of assets in Switzerland.

So far HMRC has only clawed back £135m from some of the 3,600 Britons identified as potentially avoiding tax using the Geneva branch of HSBC. Only one prosecution has been brought. “If these tax cheats were so-called benefit ‘scroungers’, they would be pursued with the full force of the law,” Ms Hodge said.

David Cameron rejected criticisms of Lord Green’s appointment. “Stephen Green was an excellent trade minister, he did a good job,” he said, adding: “No government has done more than this one to crackdown on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.”