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(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc managers and former staff risk an international arrest warrant as Belgium escalated a probe amid new leaks showing how a Swiss unit may have helped rich clients dodge taxes.
Belgian prosecutors said they may step up their part of a global investigation if their request for HSBC to volunteer information fails to yield results. The bank’s Swiss private- banking unit was charged in Belgium in November.
“In case no effective collaboration is possible, the investigating judge is considering placing the former directors of the bank, and potentially current ones, under an international arrest warrant,” prosecutors said Monday in an e- mailed statement from Brussels.
The Swiss unit came under renewed fire Sunday after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported the bank made significant profits for years handling secret accounts whose holders included drug cartels, arms dealers, tax evaders and fugitive diamond merchants.
HSBC is “cooperating with relevant authorities investigating these matters,” the London-based lender said in an e-mailed statement. “We acknowledge and are accountable for past control failures.”
HSBC is among a handful of banks facing criminal prosecution in recent years for its role in a Swiss banking system that allowed depositors to conceal their identities, and in many cases dodge taxes or launder ill-gotten cash.
Belgian prosecutors also said the Swiss authorities haven’t responded to an information request issued two months ago by Michel Claise, the Belgian judge in charge of conducting the tax probe.
Reuters reported earlier on the possible arrest warrant.
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