British tax authorities have recovered £135 million (CHF207 million) from a list of clients of HSBC’s private banking operation in Switzerland leaked by whistleblower Herve Falciani, it has been revealed.
"So far we have a yield of £135 million, but we are not finished,” the head of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Lin Homer told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.
She added that one person had been prosecuted and fined £830,000 from a list of HSBC Private Bank Suisse clients leaked by Falciani, a disgruntled bank employee who worked for eight years at the Swiss subsidiary and left in 2008 with details on an estimated 24,000 accounts.
Falciani has since handed over the list to various European tax authorities sending shockwaves throughout the private banking world and resulting in many wealthy individuals being pursued by tax authorities across the continent.
Jim Harra, HMRC’s director general of business tax, said Britain had received the details of 6,800 bank accounts from Falciani’s list. These were linked to 5,000 addresses in Britain and provided strong enough data to pursue up to 3,800 taxpayers for payments. A total of 13 investigations were ongoing.
"We are very, very interested — and determined — to shake some money out of these people, but I don't think it'll all be by prosecutions," Homer told the hearing.
However, the amount recovered by HMRC was much lower than the equivalent of £220 million retrieved by Spain and £188 million by France who have also made use of the lists provided by Falciani.
The Swiss authorities attempted to bring charges against Falciani, an Italian-French citizen, for allegedly stealing information between 2006 and 2007 relating to the 24,000 customers of the Swiss division of HSBC. Switzerland, which issued an international arrest warrant against Falciani, failed to extradite him from Spain where he had fled from France.
Falciani has acknowledged taking the data but describes himself as a whistleblower against what he calls “scandalous” practices at Swiss banks.
Swiss-British Rubik deal
The £135 million (and counting) windfall from the stolen HSBC list can be added to a total of £466.8 million so far accumulated from the Swiss-British Rubik agreement that came into force on January 1, 2013.
The Rubik deal is designed to “regularise” undeclared British assets held in Swiss banks by obliging tax dodgers to cough up an initial sum to cover backdated taxes owed.
Account holders then pay an annual withholding tax to the British tax authorities to meet their ongoing liabilities.
Officials at HMRC initially estimated that Rubik could net up to £7 billion, including more than £3 billion last year alone.
But the results so far have proved less promising than first thought.
swissinfo.ch with agencies