HSBC investigating claims of criminal account holders

HSBC bank says it is looking into allegations that criminals have used offshore accounts at its Jersey operation for money laundering. The bank issued a statement after the Daily Telegraph newspaper said it was at the centre of a major investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

HSBC said it was investigating "an alleged loss of certain client data in Jersey as a matter of urgency"

HMRC said it had "received the data and we are studying it. We receive information from a very wide range of sources which we use to ensure the tax rules are being respected," the tax authority said.

In a statement, HSBC, which is also a UK home mortgage lender said: "Clamping down on those who try to cheat the system through evading taxes and over-claiming benefits is a top priority for us, and we value the information we receive from the public and business community."

Owning an offshore Bank account is not illegal. But it is illegal to hide the interest which has accrued on the sums held, and to avoid paying tax on that interest to HMRC.

Geoff Cook, of the trade organisation Jersey Finance, said: "This is a serious matter and we note HSBC's immediate commitment to cooperating with any investigations carried out by the relevant authorities and welcome the clear position taken by the Jersey Financial Services Commission, that any failure to adhere to Jersey's clear standards will be robustly investigated and acted upon."