Two big names from banking to have been caught up in the Panama Papers data breach came out fighting this morning, hitting back at allegations that they were using offshore structures to help their clients cheat the taxman.
The information obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) from a leak relating to Panama-headquartered law firm Mossack Fonseca named entities from both Credit Suisse and HSBC among its list of 10 banks that had requested the most offshore companies for clients.
In particular, the ICIJ remarked that HSBC and its affiliates had requested more than 2,300 such structures in total.
However, both Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam and a Hong Kong-based spokesperson for HSBC told journalists from Reuters that their companies were not involved in tax evasion.
"We as a company, as a bank only encourage the use of structures when there is a legitimate economic purpose," said Thaim at a media briefing.
Gareth Hewett, a spokesperson for HSBC, told Reuters journalist in a separate incident: "The allegations are historical, in some cases dating back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicised reforms implemented over the last few years."
A spokesperson for HSBC said:
We work closely with the authorities to fight financial crime and implement sanctions. Our policy is clear that offshore accounts can only remain open either where clients have been thoroughly vetted (including due diligence, 'Know Your Customer', source of wealth, and tax transparency checks), where authorities ask us to maintain an account for the purposes of monitoring activity, or where an account has been frozen based on sanctions obligations.
City A.M. also reached out to Credit Suisse for comment but is yet to receive a reply.
It has been reported that tax authorities in Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia and a number of other countries are also launching their own investigations.