THE 2008 E-MAIL sent to HM Revenue & Customs by whistleblower Hervé Falciani allegedly exposing widespread tax evasion in HSBC’s Swiss arm has surfaced after it was published in a French newspaper.
HMRC has always maintained it had no record of any contact from Falciani, but stressed it was looking into whether it did indeed receive an e-mail or phone call at the time, and if it did, what happened.
Le Monde has since uncovered the email and shown it to the BBC.
Falciani told the BBC he felt vindicated: “It required seven years of battles to get the point we are just now.”
His data held thousands of documents showing the offshore accounts and assets of rich British customers he originally stole from the bank’s Geneva office. It contained the details of at least 6,000 UK customers – among as many as 100,000 overall. Many British clients of the bank had not declared their holdings with HMRC, and while offshore accounts are not illegal, deliberately hiding money to evade tax is.
HMRC has used the data to identify around 1,100 people who had dodged their tax liabilities in this way. That evidence was used to find property millionaire Michael Shanly guilty of tax evasion, after he held his late mother’s money in an offshore account and chose not to disclose it to HM Revenue & Customs. Eventually, he pleaded guilty and was hit with an £800,000 bill. He is still the only successful prosecution to have followed the data.
While HMRC has raised £135m on the back of the cache, the PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge this week accused the tax authority of being too soft.
“If HMRC can be bothered to catch you, you might have to pay, you won’t face prosecution, you’ll get away with it. This is a rotten message to give to taxpayers,” she said.
HMRC chief executive Lin Homer told the committee the authority “would have liked” to have pursued more criminal prosecutions “if we had met the [criminal] threshold,” but added many had not.
However, she did say more prosecutions could follow when the data is handed over to police to pursue for other offences including money laundering.
Homer added most of the information leaked via the French authorities in 2010 was incomplete or “dirty” data.
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