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Panama Papers Swiss banks deny involvement in offshore malpractices

Details concerning some 215,000 offshore companies held by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca were leaked to the press 

(Keystone)

After being cited in the Panama Papers exposé for promoting the use of offshore companies, Credit Suisse, HSBC and UBS deny any financial impropriety.

 Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse denied any links to illegal assets. Credit Suisse Channel Islands Limited was listed as the third largest facilitator of offshore companies in the Panama Papers. 

"We as a company, as a bank only encourage the use of structures when there is a legitimate economic purpose," he said on Tuesday. Thiam insisted that all bank activities were above board. 

"We do not condone structures for tax avoidance," he added. "Whenever there is a structure with a third party beneficiary we insist to know the identity of that beneficiary." 

Geneva-based HSBC Private Bank Suisse was ranked fifth among banks that facilitate the creation of offshore companies. The group said on Tuesday that the Panama Papers’ allegations belong to pre-reform era. 

"The allegations are historical, in some cases dating back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicised reforms implemented over the last few years," said Gareth Hewett, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for HSBC. 

On Monday, Switzerland’s biggest bank UBS also defended itself against allegation of helping tax avoidance and money laundering. Its Geneva branch figured among the top ten offshore company promoters in the Panama Papers. 

“We are not interested in funds that are untaxed or from dishonest activities,” said UBS. 

Of the ten financial institutions requesting the most offshore companies for clients, four are Swiss.

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