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Belgium to reclaim €540m taxes from HSBC accounts

Photo: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-7783p1.html?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Chris Warham</a> / <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/editorial?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com</a>

The Belgian government is aiming to reclaim €540 million in unpaid taxes linked to funds held in secret HSBC private Swiss bank accounts, according to the country’s finance minister.

Belgian authorities have reportedly investigated about 1000 client accounts from HSBC’s Swiss branch. Finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt reported the estimated unpaid tax uncovered by the investigation on Tuesday.

ICIJ and its partners revealed details of tax evasion and wrongdoing through HSBC’s private Swiss bank in its Swiss Leaks investigation in February. The revelations were based on client data that was leaked from inside the bank to French authorities, and then shared with authorities around the world.

In addition to the investigation of individual clients, HSBC is also facing criminal charges in Belgium over allegations the bank’s Swiss branch facilitated tax fraud and money laundering.

In France, prosecutors have reportedly asked courts to uphold a €1 billion bail for the bank ahead of a criminal trial over similar allegations. The bail was originally set at this amount when the charges were brought against the bank, however HSBC appealed, and labeled the bail excessive.

Book cover, La ClefThe news comes as HSBC also looks towards a major shake-up of its global operations, which is expected to include up to 20,000 job cuts and could see the bank move its headquarters out of the United Kingdom.

Earlier this week the bank appointed two new non-executive directors to its board ahead of a shareholder strategy meeting later this month.

Meanwhile, in France, two investigative reporters from newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday released a new book detailing the Swiss Leaks investigation.

The book, La Clef by Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme, follows the investigation from its genesis, through to working with ICIJ and its partners all around the world. 

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