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Julie DiMauro Contributing Editor

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Monday
Feb232015

Report: HSBC boss held bonuses in secret Swiss account

HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver opened an account at the bank's Swiss affiliate in the name of a Panama-based company while he was based in Hong Kong.

His bonuses were paid to the account in Geneva. The account was opened in 1998. It held about £5 million ($7.7 million), according to files leaked to the Guardian.

Gulliver, left, was stationed in Hong Kong at various times from 1980 to 2003.

"In response to queries from the Guardian about his personal account as revealed in the leaked files, a representative for Gulliver said he had made use of HSBC Suisse to hold his bonus payments prior to 2003, when he moved from Hong Kong to London."

His lawyers told the Guardian full taxes were paid in Hong Kong on the bonuses. They said Gulliver declared his Swiss account to UK tax authorities for several years.

Last week, prosecutors in Switzerland searched the offices of HSBC's private bank in Geneva. Prosecutor’s said they opened a criminal inquiry into possible money laundering against HSBC Private Bank (Suisse).

A whistleblower, Hervé Falciani, was an HSBC employee in Switzerland in 2007. He leaked documents that included the names of 130,000 account holders allegedly evading taxes in several countries.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said in a report this month that employees at the bank promised customers that their account information wouldn't be released to tax authorities in their home countries.

HSBC Holdings plc is headquartered in London.

A week ago, CEO Gulliver said in an open letter (pdf) published in UK papers that the bank won't do business "with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards."

In 2014, HSBC paid Gulliver £7.6 million ($11.7 million). His bonus was £3.4 million ($5.2 million).

Gulliver joined HSBC in 1980. He has held "key roles" for the bank in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, and the United Arab Emirates, according to his company bio.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here