Investigation into HSBC Swiss accounts yields €4.6m in settlements

Revenue chairman tells PAC that pursuing bank legally was particularly difficult

Revenue chairman Niall Cody told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that some 19 Irish resident holders of HSBC Swiss accounts have made settlements so far yielding €4.6 million. Photograph: Sam Boal /Photocall Ireland

Revenue chairman Niall Cody told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday that some 19 Irish resident holders of HSBC Swiss accounts have made settlements so far yielding €4.6 million. Photograph: Sam Boal /Photocall Ireland

 

*Revenue had initiated 33 investigations on suspicion of tax evasion relating to HSBC, 27 of which were complete, with six ongoing, the Committee of Public Accounts has been told.

Some 19 accounts have made settlements so far yielding €4.6 million, with the average tax recovered for each of the 19 cases being €239,967, Revenue chairman Niall Cody said.

Mr Cody was appearing before the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) yesterday to give details of the Revenue’s investigation into Irish accounts held at the Swiss arm of British bank HSBC, which is at the centre of a global storm over tax evasion.

Asked why the Revenue had chosen not to pursue a legal case against HSBC Private Bank, Geneva, in contrast to several other jurisdictions, Mr Cody said the legal advice was that proving aiding and abetting tax evasion was particularly difficult.

In one of the biggest financial scandals of recent times, HSBC was found to have used its Swiss arm to help thousands of rich clients evade tax – even advising them directly how to stay one step ahead of the various tax authorities.

Request

Earlier there were sharp exchanges between members about why a letter requesting the appearance of HSBC representatives had not been sent.

At its last meeting, the PAC decided to request HSBC officials attend to answer questions about reports it aided Irish individuals to evade tax.

However, yesterday it emerged the letter had not been sent by the committee’s secretariat after an official admitted he had not got around to it.

This prompted Independent TD Shane Ross to claim the committee’s work was being undermined by the secretariat. “This is crazy. We’ve got a situation here where we ask for a letter to be written last week to bring people in . . . and it’s not written on a decision by one of the secretariat,” he said. “This committee is being upstaged by the secretariat.”

* This copy was amended on March 15th