The Swiss private banking arm of HSBC has been handed a fine in the region of €300m to resolve tax evasion charges in Belgium.
Belgian prosecutors accused the bank of helping its affluent clients in Belgium evade hundreds of millions of euros in taxes.
The bank is said to have encouraged these clients to set up off-shore firms in Panama and other tax havens in the Caribbean.
In doing so, the bank had “no other purpose but to hide money”, the prosecutors alleged.
More than a thousand wealthy clients are said to be the beneficiaries of the bank’s illegal activities, primarily those involved in the Antwerp diamond business.
The settlement is subject to court approval.
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HSBC fines over the years
The latest fine is one of the several legal tussles that have hit HSBC in recent years.
In 2014, a Belgian judge charged the bank’s Swiss private banking unit with tax fraud.
In November 2017, the unit was fined €300m to resolve tax evasion allegations in France.
In the same month, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) was fined over lapses in selling structured products linked to collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers.
In 2016, HSBC was fined for regulatory breaches and internal control failings in Hong Kong.
Last year, HSBC’s securities arm HSBC Broking Securities (Asia) was fined in Hong Kong for bond selling failures.