Belgium has said it may soon issue arrest warrants for HSBC managers amid revelations showing the bank's Swiss division helped wealthy clients dodge taxes. Judges said the bank's cooperation left much to be desired.
As early as last November, Belgium charged HSBC's Swiss subsidiary with fraud and money laundering worth hundreds of millions of euros, mainly for diamond dealers in the industry's international hub of Antwerp.
HSBC said back then it would cooperate fully with investigators, but officials now maintained the Swiss division had so far failed to deliver, prompting Belgian investigating judge Michel Claise on Monday to consider issuing international arrest warrants against former and possibly also current directors of the division.
"The judge believes that it's now time for the bank to cooperate, otherwise he will be forced to issue arrest warrants, prosecution spokesperson Ine Van Wymeersch told AFP news agency.
Swift action needed
Belgium is one of several countries around the world that have launched investigations as a result of the SwissLeak files published on the weekend showing that the bank handles secret accounts for drug lords, tax evaders and celebrities.
Belgium said it assumed that the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC helped hundreds of clients cheat the state.
The Belgian judge's hope to get more information is based on a bilateral agreement between non-EU country Switzerland and Belgium which contains a joint commitment to assist in the fight against money laundering.
hg/sri (AFP, AP, dpa)