HSBC banking scandal and the British government

This video from Britain says about itself:

Who’s F*cking Us Over – HSBC Or Immigrants? Russell Brand The Trews (E253)

10 February 2015

Reaction to the news that a show called Immigration Street is in the works as it is revealed that HSBC helped clients avoid paying millions in tax.

By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:

Caught red-handed yet again

Thursday 12th February 2015

It should surprise nobody that the financial elites and the coalition government work hand-in-glove to swindle HM Revenue and Customs, writes Jeremy Corbyn

Last July Finsbury Park Mosque received a very strange letter from their bank informing them that their two accounts were about to be closed because they fell outside the “risk appetite” of that institution.

The bank sent similar letters to some other mosques, organisations and people active in Muslim communities. The mosque’s shocked worshippers drew attention to the decision, highlighting Section 29 of the Equality Act, and demonstrated outside one of its branches.

The bank of course was HSBC.

A short time later I took part in an utterly bizarre meeting with its chief executive in Britain, Antonio P S Simoes, in his office on the 26th floor in the salubrious Canary Wharf complex.

We enjoyed excellent coffee and biscuits in a wood-panelled room adorned with oil paintings. Simoes informed us once again that the bank did not discriminate against mosques, and that the problem was the bank’s “risk appetite.” Beyond that he couldn’t tell us anything.

An hour of persuasion on the good works of the excellent community mosque, alongside the anger existing in the local community, did not move him on what was clearly a corporate decision taken far away from the luxury of his office, in the bank’s international headquarters.

The background to the cull of accounts was the $1.9 billion (£1.2bn) fine which the US courts had imposed on the bank after it was caught violating sanction laws and laundering Mexican drug cartel money.

The bank was clearly paranoid that another violation of banking laws anywhere could lead to the loss of its US licence, and indeed an Ohio Democratic Senator, Sherrod Brown, is demanding explanations from the US government in respect to the latest revelations on tax evasion.

The British government has been forced into a statement concerning the bank’s operations in Britain and the systematic way in which it has enabled its customers to place very large sums of money in Swiss bank accounts where they are protected by the notorious banking secrecy laws, thus avoiding income and corporate taxation in Britain.

The nervousness of the Tories is palpable as Lord Green, a former HSBC UK director and trade and investment minister, as well as being an ordained priest, is clearly in the hot seat.

He did manage to write a book about reconciling God and Mammon and it will be interesting to see who he now thinks has the upper hand in the aggrandisement of personal wealth.

Last week, Ed Miliband was castigated by much of the media for being anti-business when he drew attention to the corporate tax avoidance that is happening on such a grand scale in Britain.

Dennis Skinner and others in Parliament pointed out that anyone accused of not paying council tax, overclaiming benefits or not paying small amounts of tax owed to HMRC gets pursued to the umpteenth degree and some even end up in prison.

The very largest companies and taxpayers are allowed to negotiate their way out of the problem and avoid any sanction. For all the estimates of the money owed by the 7,000 British bank account holders in HSBC Switzerland, only 1,100 have had any level of investigation and only $135 million (£88.5 million) has been paid back.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists estimates that the total amount banked by these customers is £20bn. There is the scandal of corporations relocating to low-tax environments by claiming that their entire turnover is in that jurisdiction rather than Britain. Thus Amazon, Starbucks and Boots pay far less tax than they should for their operations.

It would be nice if the general election turned into one about social justice in Britain — how the bedroom tax has impoverished and made homeless so many people, how work capability assessments by the Department for Work and Pensions have driven some disabled people to suicide and how real wages have fallen and homelessness has risen.

The Tories have just hosted a dinner at £15,000 a head and the collective wealth gathered in the London Grosvenor House ballroom amounted to over £22bn, demonstrating the obscenity of an inequality that has got worse in the past five years.

It is up to the labour movement to force the closure of the tax havens and make those with massive wealth pay the taxes they owe.

Le Monde owner’s criticism of HSBC leak coverage lays bare fragility of press freedom. Roy Greenslade: Pierre Bergé’s intervention over French paper’s decision to publish names of Swiss bank account holders shows how private ownership compromises paper’s claims to independence: here.

HSBC’s Swiss bank concealed large sums of money for people facing allegations of serious wrongdoing, including drug-running, corruption and money laundering, leaked files reveal. Despite being legally obliged since 1998 to make special checks on high-risk customers, the bank provided accounts for clients implicated in six notorious scandals in Africa, including Kenya’s biggest corruption case, blood diamond trading and several corrupt military sales: here.

HSBC scandal: Bank’s former boss Stephen Green resigns from UK finance lobbying group: here.

This video from England is called People’s Climate March London 21st September 2014.

The Jeremy Corbyn article continues:

The right to protest is a precious and important one. It is fundamental to any democracy. Co-operation with the police has always been a sensitive area and indeed current legislation requires agreement with the police on march and demonstration routes. However, something very fundamental has changed this week.

The organisers of the Time to Act climate change march have been told that if they go ahead with their planned demonstration, they will have to pay the bill for temporary traffic reorganisation in the area.

The event was expected to attract 20,000 people, and has been told that it must pay for stewards and pay for the cost of traffic reorganisation. This makes the organising of any demonstration virtually impossible for any organisation.

The Metropolitan Police seem to be using the excuse of cuts in their budget to remove the possibility of anyone organising any legitimate demonstration in London.

They pretend that there is no question of demonstrators paying for direct policing — yet the effect is exactly the same, as obviously any march or demonstration does disrupt traffic and requires some rerouting ahead of the event.

Fortunately a lot of people are already complaining about this. Everyone who believes in free speech and in the right to protest should get together and say we are simply not accepting it.

This 17 February 2015 video shows Yemi Hailemariam, wife of Andargachew Tsige, speaking about her husband’s imprisonment.

Andargachew Tsege is an Ethiopian opposition figure who left the country many years ago and has lived as a British national in my constituency since then.

He was tried in absentia by a court in Addis Ababa, found guilty of plotting against the Ethiopian government and sentenced to death. Last year, when he arrived at Sanaa airport in Yemen in transit he was brutally dragged from the plane, forced onto a private plane, flown to Ethiopia and thrown into prison.

Initially his family had no idea where he was. He has been allowed only two consular visits and one phone call to his family. Legal action charity Reprieve has taken up the case and we’ve had a number of meetings with the Ethiopian embassy on this.

Last week we were flatly told that the British parliamentary delegation (including me) would not be allowed to visit him in prison. A separate application for Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith to visit him is being considered.

Monday was Andy’s 60th birthday. After we presented a petition to Downing Street demanding action by the British government to secure his release, a big demonstration of family, friends and supporters assembled in Whitehall to wish him happy birthday and demand his freedom.

20 thoughts on “HSBC banking scandal and the British government

  1. Dear friends,

    British mega-bank HSBC helped arms dealers, dictators and the super-rich avoid taxes. But now that the scandal has hit the headlines we can clamp down on this rogue bank and the tax dodgers they help, so it never happens again. Add your voice now:

    Leaked documents have just revealed how British banking giant HSBC helped the world’s super-rich hide their money and dodge their taxes. Politicians in London are about to let them get away with it, but this is our chance to end impunity for tax dodgers!

    Instead of paying their taxes like the rest of us, politicians, CEOs and celebrities used secret Swiss bank accounts held with HSBC to keep their hands on billions that could have gone to health and education. If any of us had done this we’d face years in jail, but Britain’s government has given the bank a free pass, even making its former chairman a minister!

    But now UK finance minister Osborne faces an imminent election, and is very sensitive to public pressure, so our million-strong call, delivered via ads and with legislators, could get him to investigate, prosecute, and send the tax-dodging elite a powerful signal: no one is too big to jail. Let’s win this fast in Britain, HSBC’s base, then take this global:

    The leak shows how bankers helped pull off a giant global tax swindle, giving details of more than 100,000 HSBC customers who held secret Swiss bank accounts, from which they could extract stacks of cash with no questions asked. This isn’t an isolated case — we are losing $1 trillion a year to the tax dodging super-rich.That’s enough to end extreme world poverty many times over!!

    It’s outrageous that the UK government knew what HSBC was up to and did nothing about it, but together we can change that. There is a growing call in Britain for HSBC to face real consequences for its actions, and we can supercharge it with a global outcry against tax impunity.

    HSBC and their tax dodging customers are expecting to get away with this unscathed. Let’s demand the British government make a global example of them to send a crystal-clear message that we won’t tolerate tax evasion or the banks that facilitate it. Sign below to join the call:

    Our community has helped change laws on bank fraud and bankers’ pay, and now we can tackle the collusion between banks and billionaires which is making our societies more unequal and threatening the services we all hold dear. We can’t accept one rule for rich and another for the rest of us.

    In determination,

    Alex, Bert, Laila, Ari, Marie and the whole Avaaz team


    HSBC could yet be prosecuted over tax-dodging scheme, warns Loretta Lynch(The Guardian)

    Pressure mounts for formal investigation into HSBC unit (Financial Times)

    Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers (ICIJ)

    HSBC files show how Swiss bank helped clients dodge taxes and hide millions (The Guardian)

    Explore the Swiss Leaks Data (ICIJ)


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