One HSBC client with links to New Zealand had up to US$50 million ($67.83 million) with its Swiss private banking arm, according to leaked files that revealed the financial institution helped wealthy customers avoid taxes and hide millions of dollars.

The client is one of 110 people or entities linked to this country that had Swiss HSBC accounts holding as much as US$152 million in total in 2006/2007.

That's according to information analysed by reporters in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which said the overall cache of 60,000 leaked files showed the banking giant provided accounts to criminals, corrupt businessmen, politicians and celebrities.

Read also:
Secret bank files show HSBC Swiss tax dodge


"HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channelled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws," ICIJ reported.

The files list a range of former and current politicians from Britain, Russia, India and a range of African countries, Saudi, Bahraini, Jordanian and Moroccan royalty, and the late Australian press magnate Kerry Packer.

While 194 HSBC Swiss bank accounts and 110 clients in the files were linked to this country, the consortium named one - the late Court of Appeal judge Sir Ian Lloyd McKay.

A former president of the Electoral Commission, McKay died last year at 84. He served on the bench of the Court of Appeal in the 1990s.

According to the ICIJ, McKay was linked to two client accounts at HSBC. One held no money in 2006/2007, the other listed five bank accounts holding a total of US$31,118 at that time. The ICIJ said the files did not reveal McKay's role with the accounts.

The consortium said that legitimate uses for Swiss bank accounts exist and it did not intend to imply those in the files had "broken the law or otherwise acted improperly".

About 40 of the New Zealand-linked accounts were active as at 2006, the ICIJ said. Close to 40 per cent of the clients linked to this country held a New Zealand passport or were New Zealand nationals.

The information about client accounts is mostly from 1988 to 2007. The snapshot of the maximum amounts in these accounts was from 2006 and 2007, ICIJ said.


HSBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the ICIJ: "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".

The investigation was done by the ICIJ, linked to the US-based Centre for Public Integrity, which enlisted more than 140 journalists from 45 countries in co-operation with France's Le Monde, Britain's BBC and The Guardian, US programme 60 Minutes, German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and more than 45 other media organisations.

Names in the files include people sanctioned by the United States, including Turkish businessman Selim Alguadis and Gennady Timchenko, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin targeted by sanctions over Ukraine.

- additional reporting AFP