(photo credit: REUTERS)
Documents leaked to the Internet exposed Monday more than 30,000 secret bank accounts at the Swiss branch of British bank HSBC held by about 100,000 private individuals and companies from over 200 countries. Among them are 6,222 Israelis, who held some $10 billion in such accounts.
The list has been dubbed "Swiss leaks," and it includes accounts held by royalty, convicted cocaine dealers, businesses, and sportspeople. On the list are seventeen Israelis who held over $100 million and thousands more who held various sums.
The list is from 2007. Besides the names, some of the correspondence between HSBC in Switzerland and its customers has also been leaked. The documents were published by The Guardian
, the BBC's "Panorama" program, and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which cautioned that "being identified as holding an HSBC Private Bank account is of itself no indication of any wrongdoing."
Israel is ranked sixth among the countries whose citizens deposited money at the bank, after Switzerland, the UK, Venezuela, the US, and France. According to the documents, the largest amount held by an Israeli at HSBC Switzerland is $1.5 billion. 6,554 account holders at the bank have an Israeli connection; 49% of these hold Israeli passports. The Israeli accounts were opened between 1922 and 2006.
HSBC commented on the exposé: "We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today," and said it had “taken significant steps over the past several years to implement reforms and exit clients who did not meet strict new HSBC standards, including those where we had concerns in relation to tax compliance.”
Among the names mentioned in the documents are Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, King Mohammed of Morocco, King Abdullah of Jordan, actor Christian Slater, banker Edmond Safra, model Elle Macpherson, and French-Jewish comedian Gad Elmaleh.