The Swiss prosecutor raids HSBC offices in Geneva and opens a criminal investigation, following media leak suggesting aggravated money laundering by the Swiss private bank. Joel Flynn reports.
This won't be the most dramatic raid on a bank you'll ever see - but the implications of it could be enormous. Geneva's public prosector, Yves Bertossa, making his way to the lakeside offices of HSBC to search the premises. This is the beginning of proceedings that could cost Europe's biggest bank untold amounts. A criminal inquiry opened into allegations of aggravated money laundering. HSBC in the spotlight after details emerged about how its Swiss private bank allegedly helped wealthy clients evade tax. Attorney General Olivier Jornot. SOUNDBITE: Attorney General, Olivier Jornot, saying (French): "As of now, we aim to secure all information concerning the accounts and clients who have been mentioned as having funds resulting from criminal offences. Hence, we are looking for indications of money laundering since it is indeed for aggravated money laundering that the investigation has been opened." This is the latest in a saga that threatens to spiral out of HSBC's control. Recent revelations by media organisations including the UK's Guardian newspaper and France's Le Monde, among others, embroiling the bank in a scandal that dates back to 2008. HSBC has apologised to customers and investors of the historical failings of its Swiss business. Full page letters printed in the British press at the weekend. But the UK's financial watchdog too has said it will now investigate the bank. The focus there on its current, not its past, behaviour. Tax bodies in Belgium, Austria and Argentina all now looking into allegations of tax evasion as well. For now this Swiss investigation is about obtaining information - something HSBC says it has cooperated with the relevant authorities on since 2008. Depending on what they find though, things could still get much worse for Europe's largest lender.