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Spain probes Swiss banking executives over alleged money laundering

A Spanish court is probing seven former executives of HSBC's private Swiss bank on suspicion of money laundering following an investigation of documents in the Swissleaks scandal on bank-supported tax evasion, legal sources told AFP Thursday.

Spain probes Swiss banking executives over alleged money laundering
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
In an order dated January but not published until now, the National High Court named seven persons under suspicion of “persistent money laundering and criminal association” who in 2006 and 2007 held senior positions at the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC.
   
They include former chairman of the board Peter Widmer and former CEOs Christopher Meares and Clive Bannister.
   
The investigation, which began in May 2016, is based on the 'Falciani list', a cache of files listing unreported accounts of customers of the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC which was stolen in 2008 by former employee Herve Falciani.
   
The Swissleaks scandal has triggered the opening of proceedings in France, Spain, Belgium and Argentina.
   
According to the order, the Spanish court suspects a possible “collaboration” by HSBC in the transfer and repatriation of funds deposited in the Swiss accounts with “the intention to conceal them from the Spanish treasury”.
   
To make these transfers, HSBC would have collaborated with the Spanish bank Santander and the Spanish subsidiary of the French bank BNP Paribas.
   
The National High Court said it considered there were “indications of suspicion of money laundering”.
   
On Wednesday, the Spanish court announced that ten officials in Spain from Santander and the Spanish subsidiary of BNP Paribas had been indicted in the alleged money laundering case involving the HSBC bank.
   
Judge Jose de la Mata ordered the ten defendants, seven officials from Santander and three from the Spanish branch of BNP Paribas, to appear in mid-June.

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BREXIT

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts ‘within weeks’

Some of Britain's biggest banks have begun contacting customers in European Union countries, warning them that their accounts will be closed down within weeks because the cost and complexity of operating without a continuation of pan-European banking rules is too much.

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts 'within weeks'
Lloyds Bank expects to close at least 13,000 accounts. Photo: Lloyds Bank
According to a report in The Times, thousands of Britons who live in Europe face being stripped of their UK bank accounts and credit cards, because of the UK government's failure to agree rules for operating after Brexit. 
 
Each of the EU's 27 member states has different rules for cross-border bank accounts which will start to apply immediately the UK's transition period ends on 31st December 2020. 
 
“In some cases, continuing to serve customers would be incredibly complex, extremely expensive and very time-consuming, and simply would not make economic sense,” a source at one British bank told the newspaper. “This is passporting — this is the reality of Brexit.”
 
 
If a way is not found to continue pan-European banking rules, or passporting, UK banks will br breaking the law if they don't apply for new banking licenses in each European Union Country. 
 
 
Lloyds, Britain’s biggest banking group, began writing to customers in August, warning them that their bank accounts would  close down on December 31.
 
The bank estimates that 13,000 customers, including those based in Holland, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, would lose their accounts. 
 
“If customers have regular deposits into, or payments out of, their account, they will need to make other arrangements before their account is closed,” the bank said. 
 
Barclays and Coutts have also started contacting customers. 
 
“In light of the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, we continue to review the services we offer to customers within the European Economic Area (EEA), and any impacted customers will be contacted directly,” Barclays said in a statement. “The timings for account closure will depend on the type of product that a customer holds, but we will always give notice to customers.”
 
“In the event that no alternative to the European Economic Area passporting regime for financial services is agreed between the UK and EU, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from offering our services to clients who reside in the EEA,” Coutts said. 
 
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