December 2, 2008 / 5:08 PM / 11 years ago

HSBC and C.Suisse deny targeted in U.S. tax probe

ZURICH (Reuters) - European banks Credit Suisse CSGN.VX and HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) said they were not aware of any U.S. investigation into offshore private banking services, after a report they had been targeted by a probe.

A customer enters a branch of HSBC bank in central London November 8, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The New York Times said on Tuesday the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) had expanded its criminal investigation into foreign banks selling offshore private banking services to include Credit Suisse and HSBC. The paper cited people briefed on the matter.

Credit Suisse said it had no knowledge that the DoJ was investigating it as part of an ongoing inquiry into offshore services offered to wealthy American clients to help them dodge taxes, which has already engulfed rival UBS UBSN.VX.

“We are not aware of any investigation regarding U.S. tax issues,” a Credit Suisse spokesman said. “Credit Suisse adhere to all applicable laws, regulations and policies.”

HSBC made similar comments. “We are not aware of HSBC being investigated in connection with its offshore private banking services in the U.S. and HSBC has not received any contact from the U.S. authorities with regard to any such investigation,” the London-based bank said.

It said it was confident its U.S. business is compliant with its local regulatory requirements.

DoJ spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment.

The New York Times said the investigation into HSBC and Credit Suisse began around September and is focussing on whether the two banks helped wealthy American clients hide up to $30 billion (20 billion pounds) in offshore accounts that went undeclared to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The investigations are at an early stage and have not focussed on any executives, though that could change as the investigations unfolds, people briefed on the matter told the newspaper.

The U.S. authorities are seeking the names of about 17,000 U.S. clients of UBS who have Swiss-based bank accounts, which are protected by Swiss banking secrecy laws. They have indicted UBS’ global wealth management chief as part of the investigation.

UBS said last week it has uncovered a limited number of tax fraud cases and Swiss lawyers representing U.S. clients of UBS have said Switzerland is considering disclosing information on only a few hundred.

Reporting by Lisa Jucca, Steve Slater, Pratish Narayanan and Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter

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