HSBC pays Swiss authorities record-breaking fine

Four months after a historic police raid, Geneva’s prosecutor dropped a criminal probe into HSBC, but left the bank with a warning.

Switzerland

The Swiss prosecutor has dropped its investigation into alleged criminal wrongdoing at HSBC’s Swiss branch after the bank agreed to pay a record-breaking CHF40 million ($43 million) compensation without admitting guilt.

HSBC Private Bank’s Swiss offices were raided by Swiss police 10 days after ICIJ, Le Monde, and media partners published the Swiss Leaks investigation, which revealed widespread tax avoidance and questionable conduct through the bank.

The ICIJ investigation was based on files leaked from inside the bank to French authorities, and included details on 100,000 clients linked to the HSBC Swiss branch.

At a Thursday press conference the Geneva prosecutor leading the investigation into alleged money laundering announced no criminal charges would be filed against the bank. Tax evasion is not a crime in Switzerland.

Prosecutor Olivier Jornot used the announcement to rebuke his country’s own financial laws, and cautioned the bank that it was on its final warning.

“This matter shows the weakness of Swiss law in the matter of entry of criminal funds into the financial system,” he said.

The compensation payment the bank agreed to make is the biggest ever imposed by Geneva authorities, but it does not include an admission of guilt by the bank.

Read more about the impact from ICIJ's investigations, and find out how you can support ICIJ's work

In response to the news, HSBC said it co-operated fully with Swiss authorities, and re-iterated its previous statements that the Swiss branch of the bank had undergone a comprehensive overhaul, including the shedding of 70 percent of its clients since 2007.

The Swiss investigation was just one of a number of official probes into the bank’s global operations and its activities through the Swiss branch. French prosecutors are pushing ahead with a criminal trial against the bank, and investigations continue in Belgium, Argentina, and the United States.

Email newsletter Find out first! Receive ICIJ's investigations by email

IMPACT

Chilean president avoids removal after senate impeachment vote sparked by Pandora Papers

Nov 16, 2021
IMPACT

‘This has been a bipartisan failure’: US lawmakers call for investigation of Dominican Republic sugar industry

Nov 13, 2021
Panama Papers
IMPACT

Germany seeks arrest of senior Panama Papers lawyer

Nov 11, 2021
IMPACT

Denver museum to return looted relics to Cambodia after US moves to seize them

Nov 10, 2021
IMPACT

Chilean legislators impeach president after Pandora Papers revelations

Nov 09, 2021
IMPACT

Clamor for crackdown on hidden wealth jolts Sri Lanka elite following Pandora Papers revelations

Nov 01, 2021
ICIJ is dedicated to ensuring all reports we publish are accurate. If you believe you have found an inaccuracy let us know.