HSBC sifts through Jersey accounts to avoid tax trouble

HMRC began investigating the bank’s Jersey accounts three years ago after a leak from a whistleblower

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The Independent Online

HSBC has launched a crackdown on Jersey bank accounts held by UK residents, which could lead to forced closures if customers fail to prove their identity and where they live.

The move follows criticism dating back to 2012 that HSBC accounts in Jersey were being used to launder money and avoid or evade tax. Sources close to the bank said it had been re-examining the status of Jersey customers “for a while now”.

HMRC began investigating the bank’s Jersey accounts three years ago in the wake of a leak from a whistleblower.

In February, The Independent revealed that the taxman was now examining some 170 individuals and could collect anything between £10m and £20m in unpaid taxes.

HSBC’s chairman, Douglas Flint, also told MPs that the bank had withdrawn advertising from the Daily Telegraph after it ran articles in 2012 about its Jersey operations.

The bank has been at the centre of a storm since details emerged of a list of Swiss HSBC account holders – obtained by Herve Falciani while he was working on an IT upgrade. Some £350m in unpaid tax has been recovered from UK holders as a result.

A spokesman for the bank said of the Jersey accounts: “We have been reviewing the details we hold on our customers to ensure we have the information we need to protect them, together with wider society, against fraud and other financial crime.”

The bank has declined to comment on individual cases but has said it has “exited clients” who do not meet standards or where there are concerns in relation to the client’s tax compliance.

The bank has three units on the island, and those dealing with Jersey residents or with UK expats are not thought to have been involved with the account closures.

Other banks are said to have launched similar initiatives as efforts are stepped up to crack down on the use of offshore territories to launder dirty cash or to evade tax.