Ex-HSBC Banker Pleads Guilty in $1.8 Billion French Tax Case
08 Aug 2019

The former chief executive officer of HSBC Holdings Plc’s Swiss private bank pleaded guilty to helping wealthy clients hide assets worth at least 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) as French prosecutors flex their muscles to tackle white-collar crime.

Peter Braunwalder was fined 500,000 euros and given a one-year suspended jail sentence, according to a Paris court ruling on the plea. The 68-year-old admitted that he took part in helping clients evade taxes between 2006 and 2007 by opening clandestine Swiss bank accounts and setting up offshore trusts or providing fake loans.

The former HSBC executive also pleaded guilty to illegally approaching French residents to encourage them to shift funds to Switzerland during the period, according to the previously unreported French ruling dated Jan. 29 and released this week. Braunwalder retired from his role at HSBC a decade ago.

The HSBC case is part of a French crackdown on tax fraud and money laundering operated through Switzerland that’s seen the conviction of a former minister and UBS Group AG ordered in February to pay a record 4.5 billion-euro fine after being chastised by a judge for criminal wrongdoings of “an exceptionally serious nature.”

Seeking Convictions

The Braunwalder guilty plea comes over a year after HSBC paid 300 million euros to resolve allegations in the same case. It’s a sign that French financial prosecutors are determined to pursue individuals even after collecting large settlements.

By Gaspard Sebag, Bloomberg, 7 August 2019

Read more at Bloomberg

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