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HSBC transfers more data to the US

HSBC bank employees, who dealt with wealthy US clients, apparently had no possibility to prevent the transfer Keystone

The Swiss branch of bank HSBC has confirmed it handed further documents to the United States containing the names of staff, details of business trips, internal reports, phone calls and emails in connection with tax evasion investigations.

A spokesperson confirmed a report in Tuesday’s edition of the Geneva-based Le Temps newspaper. He added all affected staff had been informed and that no client data had been handed over.

The bank employees, who dealt with wealthy US clients, apparently had no possibility to prevent the transfer.

The spokesman said the bank had reduced the number of business trips to the US to minimise legal risks for its staff.

A first set of data was delivered by five major banks to US authorities in April, when, following pressure from the US government, Bern authorised Swiss banks to deliver the names of their employees to the US authorities. The data had to be encoded.

Since then, some 10,000 files have been relayed to the US Department of Justice containing written correspondence and notes of telephone calls made between bank staff and US clients. Some of this data has been used to identify specific bank staff.

Swiss bank employees, fearful of how the decision to hand over data could affect them, have begun legal proceedings against banks and the government in an effort to find out what personal data was transferred to the US.

Eleven Swiss banks are currently under investigation in the US and there is pressure too from Europe where burdened taxpayers want scalps after numerous banking scandals.

UBS was the first Swiss bank to be investigated by US prosecutors for tax evasion.

It was forced to pay a $780 million fine for helping US citizens avoid paying tax.
A year later, the Swiss government agreed to hand over the names of 4,500 American UBS clients, a decision ratified by parliament in 2010. 
US tax amnesties saw 30,000 American clients of Swiss financial institutions admit to having undeclared accounts abroad, providing the IRS and the justice department with proof they were aided and abetted by Swiss banks.
A number of Swiss bankers and lawyers were arrested or indicted in the US, including three managers at the Wegelin private bank. In January, Wegelin announced most of its activities had been ceded to the Raiffeisen group.
A few days later in a first for a foreign bank, the US authorities indicted Wegelin for helping clients defraud the IRS.
Eleven Swiss banks are under investigation in the US. Talks are ongoing between the US and Swiss authorities to find a global solution to the crisis.

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