Police investigate Slovaks with HSBC accounts

After some hesitation the Slovak police began investigation of involvement of Slovaks in the ‘Swiss Leaks’, a case when Swiss branch of the HSBC bank assisted people from other countries to dodge taxes and change it into difficult to trace cash.

(Source: AP/TASR)

The leaked list includes 60 people with links to Slovakia.

Police said on February 10 that they will deal with the case only after they receive the information from foreign colleagues. Slovak tax offices have been investigating the case since February 9. By February 11 the National Crime Agency (NAKA) began to examine all published information.

“The unit has already contacted partners in Switzerland with a request for information about clients of HSBC,” Michal Slivka, Slovak police spokesman said as cited by the Sme daily. They have addressed also the HSBC offfice in London. They are also harmonising their steps with their Czech colleagues trying to get the list of Czech people with accounts in the bank in Switzerland.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists recently published information that HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland has accepted deposits of $102 billion from citizens of various countries, helping its customers to avoid their tax duties in their home countries. A total of 147 accounts of 60 clients containing $48.7 million in total had certain links to Slovakia but only six of them have a Slovak passport. The remaining accounts are of shell firms or are anonymous. The biggest client with the Slovak background had $10.5 million at the account, Sme wrote. No Slovak name has been published so far. 

The Financial Administration first showed interest Monday when the case, involving data from 2006 and 2007, was made public.

“We will use all legal means to get data from Swiss Leaks,” said Financial Adminstration spokeswoman Patricia Macíková.

There are two paths to the data, according to Sme. The administration can either ask foreign journalists, who have the complete list of HSBC clients including Slovaks, for cooperation or ask French authorities, whom already posses the data, for help.

Available data indicates that HSBC opened the most suspicious accounts with links to Slovakia around 1998, at the outset of the second rule of the then prime minister Vladimír Mečiar when a period of wild privatisation was coming to an end, Sme wrote. In total 85 clients opened a suspicious account with links to Slovakia since 1975. Some were probably later closed because in 2006 HSBC registered only 60 clients with links to Slovakia. The most suspicious ‘Slovak’ accounts at HSBC were active in 2002, more than 40. At that time, during the second term of the then Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, Slovak electricity producer Slovenské Elektrárne, regional energy companies, water and gas utilities including SPP were being privatised. Later the activity on the accounts decreased and started to grow again in 2005 along with the approaching elections, won by Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party, Sme wrote.  

According to Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, data directly from an official source would enable comparison with data of Slovak tax offices and put together the full mosaic.

“We will, of course, examine also information which will arrive to us as unverified, but relevant data could speed up a lot such things,” Kaliňák told the TA3 news channel. 

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