Belgium claims millions in tax over Swiss accounts - report

Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian tax inspectors are claiming more than 367 million euros in taxes from wealthy Belgians who kept accounts with HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland, which is at the centre of a Belgian tax evasion probe, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Some 2,450 Belgians held 3,137 accounts with HSBC's (LSE:HSBA) private banking arm in Geneva, each containing between 15,000 and 79 million euros, L'Echo reported. Some of the accounts were held in the names of Panamanian front companies, the paper said.

The details are among a trove of data on European clients of HSBC's private banking arm that a former IT analyst at the bank, Herve Falciani, copied in 2006 and 2007 and gave to French prosecutors.

L'Echo did not say how it got hold of the data.

HSBC spokesmen in London and Zurich could not immediately be reached for comment.

Falciani, a Franco-Italian now living in France, has been pursued since 2009 by Swiss authorities seeking his extradition on charges of data theft.

Last week, Belgian police raided the homes in Brussels and Antwerp of some 20 clients of HSBC Private Bank as part of an investigation into tax evasion, Brussels prosecutors said.

They said 90 federal agents were seeking to establish what part HSBC Private Bank's Swiss arm in Geneva might have played in the administration of its Belgian client base.

Countries around the world are cracking down on tax after the global financial crisis put government budgets under strain and increased the need to maximise tax receipts.

Under European Union rules, member states can tax savings even if they are earned in a different member state.

Under an agreement signed between the bloc and Switzerland in 2004, people liable to pay Belgian tax were charged a 15 percent tax on interest earned from savings held in Switzerland. In 2011 that rate was raised to 35 percent.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft, additional reporting by Costas Pitas in London; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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