HSBC bank is being probed by tax administration, regulatory and law enforcement authorities around the world, including India, and Europe’s largest lender is concerned about the amounts of penalties that could be imposed on it for its alleged money-laundering activities, the bank said in its annual report .
The UK-based bank separately said it has also received “subpoenas and requests for information” from the US and other authorities with respect to certain US-based clients of an HSBC company in India.
The case relates to some non-resident Indians (NRI) facing investigation in the US for alleged violation of American tax laws.
HSBC listed investigations into the bank’s Geneva branch affair, saying that India, Belgium, France, Argentina and Switzerland were among the countries which have initiated inquiries into the alleged irregularities by the bank’s Swiss arm.
It warned that more could follow and that there “is a high degree of uncertainty as to the terms on which they will be resolved and the timing of such resolutions, including the amounts of fines, penalties and/or forfeitures imposed on HSBC, which could be significant”.
“In light of the recent media attention regarding these matters, it is possible that other tax administration, regulatory or law enforcement authorities will also initiate or enlarge similar investigations or regulatory proceedings,” the bank said.
The bank reported profit before tax in 2014 at $18.7 billion, which was $3.9 billion lower than in the previous year. “This reflected lower gains from disposals and reclassifications, and the negative effect of other significant items, including fines, settlements, UK customer redress and associated provisions, totalling $3.7 billion,” it said.
“We deeply regret and apologise for the conduct and compliance failures highlighted which were in contravention of our own policies as well as expectations of us,” said D.J. Flint, the bank’s group chairman.
The Swiss police last week searched HSBC bank’s office in Geneva as part of an inquiry into alleged money-laundering, the prosecutor office here said.
In a statement, the prosecutor office said the search at the bank was led by Attorney General Olivier Jornot and prosecutor Yves Bertossa.
The statement said the investigation could extend to “people suspected of committing or participating in money laundering”. Officials were said to have hauled away a large number of documents from the bank.
Earlier this month,Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government has completed assessment of 350 foreign accounts while tax-evasion proceedings have been initiated against 60 such holders as part of its crackdown on black money accounts, .
Reacting to a media report that over 1,100 Indians were in the list of clients who held accounts in HSBC bank’s Geneva branch from 2006-2007, Jaitley said: “The details that have come out are the ones we already have.”