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Banks caught in 'Panama Papers' tax row

Tuesday, April 05, 2016 - 01:40

Credit Suisse and HSBC, two of the world's largest wealth managers, have dismissed suggestions they were actively using offshore structures to help clients cheat on their taxes. As Sara Hemrajani reports, their comments came a day after a leak from a Panamanian law firm showed widespread use of those instruments by global banks on behalf of their clients.

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Pushed into the 'Panama Papers' spotlight. Credit Suisse and HSBC have dismissed claims they were using complex offshore arrangements to help clients cheat on their taxes. The leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm allegedly show that the banks were active in registering shell companies. Those were then used to move money around the world on behalf of wealthy customers. This latest headline could be another blow to both lenders, who've paid fines in the past for tax evasion and money laundering. SOUNDBITE: Matthew Beesley, Head of Global Equities, Henderson Global Investors, saying (English): "Of course this raises the spectre of further involvement in what is being seen and what is still seen as a shady industry, and one where banks in the past have been fined for aiding and abetting certain individuals and corporations for not paying their full amount in tax owed to individual geography." Credit Suisse's CEO says his bank only acted for "legitimate economic purpose" and that he "did not condone structures for tax avoidance". While HSBC says the documents in the leak pre-date major reforms of its business model. With many now putting the blame on financial regulators, analysts say their domestic focus has been a problem. SOUNDBITE: Matthew Beesley, Head of Global Equities, Henderson Global Investors, saying (English): "What you are perhaps starting to see now at the moment is co-ordinated response to tax avoidance globally, which has so far been absent, unlike other regulatory bodies which have worked together to try and narrow the scope and to co-ordinate regulatory response. Tax avoidance authorities have yet to do that." Authorities in France, Australia and Sweden are among those saying they've opened investigations. Mossack Fonseca - the law firm involved - denies any wrongdoing.

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Banks caught in 'Panama Papers' tax row

Tuesday, April 05, 2016 - 01:40