Footballer in secret bank account scandal

Footballer in secret bank account scandal
Footballer Andreas Andersson has been embroiled in secret bank accounts scandal. Photo: Krister Larsson/SCANPIX
International banking giant HSBC helped hundreds of rich Swedes, including a former national football champion, dodge taxes. More than 500 Swedes have become embroiled in a scandal of secret assets amounting to more than 800 billion kronor.

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Secret leaked bank account files reveal that HSBC's Swiss private bank helped customers – including more than 500 Swedes – conceal more than 800 billion kronor in secret bank accounts, according to the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The data was obtained through international collaboration between news outlets including Swedish Radio's news programme Ekot, British and French dailies The Guardian and Le Monde and the ICIJ.

The documents, which cover a period up to 2007 when they were stolen by a computer expert working for HSBC in Geneva, contain details of more than 100,000 customers from around the world. The Swedish clients include business people, consultants, jewellery traders and former footballer Andreas Andersson, according to Ekot.

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Andersson, who made his fortune playing for the Italian football club AC Milan, became a match hero when the Swedish national team qualified for the World Cup in 2002.

In 2007 the footballer told Swedish tax authorities his financial assets amounted to 1.5 million kronor. But in his account in Switzerland he had around 16 million kronor at the time.

“I don't want to comment on this right now,” he told Ekot, but added: “I've made a correction, so to speak, which I handed in maybe four months ago.”

According to Swedish tax authorities, around 4500 people have now declared their previously secret wealth through a so called 'self correction'.

Wealth tax was abolished in Sweden in 2007, but capital gains are still taxable and must be declared. As previously reported by The Local, the Swedish Tax Agency has been working for several years to crack down on tax avoidance through the use of secret international bank accounts, which in themselves are not illegal.

HSBC and Swiss authorities vowed on Sunday to cooperate with governments to trace potential tax dodgers.

The banking giant told The Guardian in a statement that reforms had been made and more were still to come, adding: “In the past, the Swiss private banking industry operated very differently to the way it does today. Private banks, including HSBC's Swiss private bank, assumed that responsibility for payment of taxes rested with individual clients, rather than the institutions that banked them.

"Swiss private banks were typically used by wealthy individuals to manage their wealth in a discreet manner.

“Although there are numerous legitimate reasons to have a Swiss bank account, in some cases individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts. This resulted in private banks, including HSBC's Swiss private bank, having a number of clients that may not have been fully compliant with their applicable tax obligations. We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures.

“We have taken significant steps over the past several years to implement reforms and exit clients who did not meet strict new HSBC standards. HSBC's Swiss private bank has reduced its client base by almost 70 percent since 2007.

“HSBC has cooperated and continues to cooperate to the extent that it can with requests for information from governments regarding account holders. However, providing client data to foreign authorities would itself constitute a criminal offence under Swiss law.”