Panorama: deVere CEO Nigel Green joins international outcry

10 Feb

Last night’s BBC Panorama has sparked an international firestorm against HSBC.

After watching Panorama myself I am not surprised by this seemingly growing global fallout. Indeed, I share in the outcry which follows the programme’s claims that HSBC helped clients across the world evade tax to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.
Previously, I had been concerned that the report, as has so often been the case in the media, would confuse the very different topics of tax evasion and legal tax avoidance.

However, I was pleased to see that this did not happen. Panorama focused on unambiguous cases of tax evasion, which is, of course, illegal and therefore punishable by law.

Panorama said it saw accounts from some 100,000 clients in more than 200 countries, stolen in 2007 by former HSBC employee-turned-whistleblower, Herve Falciani.

The 30-minute programme detailed evidence the bank colluded with hundreds of clients to actively evade tax.

In a statement, HSBC commented: “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.”

Panorama, unsurprisingly, sought to speak to Stephen Green, the top boss at HSBC at the time the bank is accused of helping clients to evade tax, and who more recently was made a Conservative peer and appointed to the government.

The reporter ‘doorstopped’ him but he was in no mood to answer any questions. “As a matter of principle I will not comment on the business of HSBC past or present,” he said.

In my view as deVere CEO Panorama offered three key ‘takeaways’ from last night’s documentary.

Firstly, it highlighted the alleged illegal activities of a banking giant and some of its clients.

Secondly, it set out what tax evasion is and why it is a serious criminal global issue that needs to be tackled with more vigour.

Thirdly, it did not confuse tax evasion, which is wholly illegal, and tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal and can form part of a robust and sensible financial planning strategy.

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