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HSBC not protected from charges over aiding tax evasion: US official

11 february 2015, 13:27

 HSBC's 2012 criminal settlement with the US Justice Department does not protect the bank from fraud or tax evasion charges, Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch told lawmakers, AFP reports.

In December 2012, HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion in penalties and restitution over charges it failed to have an effective money laundering program and conducted illegal transactions on behalf of Iran, Sudan and other sanctioned countries.

The 2012 agreement with HSBC was "limited to violations of the Bank Secrecy Act for failures to maintain an adequate anti-money laundering program and for sanctions violations," Lynch said in a letter to US senators dated Monday.

The settlement "explicitly mentions that the agreement does not bind the Department's Tax Division, nor the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division," said Lynch.

Lynch's comments in a letter to US senators considering her nomination to lead the Justice Department showed continued fallout from the so-called "Swiss Leaks" scandal.

On Sunday, documents published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed the Swiss division of London-based HSBC helped wealthy clients evade taxes on accounts containing some $119 billion.

The documents show that HSBC opened Swiss accounts for international criminals, businessmen, politicians and celebrities, according to the ICIJ.

In response to the bombshell, British lawmakers announced they were investigating HSBC's activities. A Belgian judge was said to be considering international arrest warrants for directors of HSBC's Swiss division.

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