24 Mar 2016
Italian police have launched an investigation against an Italian financial broker linked to a former HSBC branch in Lugano, Switzerland.
The broker, who is yet to be named, is a suspect in a larger case involving a group of 12 brokers working across 29 Italian cities who allegedly helped hide client funds from tax authorities.
It is believed that funds were deposited in anonymous accounts at HSBC in Lugano, the Swiss town bordering Italy. The funds were then transferred to offshore companies in Panama, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands.
Tax authorities in Turin, Italy, confirmed that police had raided the broker’s home in Lecco, Italy on Tuesday, although the other 11 brokers are not currently under investigation at this stage.
A spokesperson from HSBC released an email statement regarding the investigation claiming that the bank is “monitoring the situation” but would not make any further comment.
HSBC no longer has offices in Lugano.
This investigation into money laundering comes as part of a probe by finance police into “the biggest banking leak in history”, the ‘Falciani List’ – a list of the names of 130,000 potential tax evaders leaked in 2008 by former HSBC employee and whistleblower Hervé Falciani.
Falciani is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for industrial espionage for breaking banking secrecy laws. Other individuals featured on the list are currently being investigated by authorities in Italy, France, Austria, Belgium and Argentina.
This investigation illustrates the importance for financial institutions of managing their exposure not only to the risk of money laundering but also to the risk of facilitating predicate crimes such as tax evasion, bribery and corruption.
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