Swiss Banker Pleads Guilty in $1.8 Billion tax-dodging investigation

Ex-HSBC Swiss Banker Pleads Guilty in $1.8 Billion tax-dodging investigation

The former head of banking giant HSBC’s private Swiss unit has pleaded guilty in France to helping wealthy clients hide $1.8 billion.

Peter Braunwalder, who led HSBC Private Bank (Switzerland) from 2000 until his retirement in 2008, was fined $560,000 and received a one-year suspended sentence, according to reports by Bloomberg and AFP.

Braunwalder’s guilty plea comes one year after HSBC agreed to pay France $353 million to settle allegations as part of the same tax-dodging investigation.

In a separate case this week, the HSBC’s Swiss unit agreed to pay $329 million in Belgium to settle a criminal probe involving similar accusations as the bank faced in France. The settlement requires court approval before proceeding, according to a report by Bloomberg.

In 2015, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in partnership with 140 journalists from 45 countries, published the Swiss Leaks investigation.

Swiss Leaks revealed that HSBC Private Bank (Switzerland) offered services to clients named-checked by the United Nations or in court documents in connection to arms trafficking, blood diamonds and bribery.

Other HSBC clients included allies and family members of despotic regimes in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, politicians from Kenya to Georgia and Hollywood celebrities, including Christian Slater.

The Swiss Leaks investigation was based on 60,000 leaked files that provided details on the professions and assets of more than 100,000 clients. French newspaper Le Monde obtained the files and shared them with ICIJ.

It is not illegal to have a Swiss bank account. However, the Swiss Leaks investigation showed that HSBC Private Bank repeatedly advised clients on how to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.

HSBC acknowledged that standards “were significantly lower than today.”

Since the investigation, countries such as Malta, Belgium and India have reported recovering millions of dollars in fines, penalties and unpaid taxes from nationals who held accounts with HSBC’s Swiss private bank.

Documents from Swiss Leaks show that Braunwalder also intervened in cases for ultra-wealthy clients from outside France with special demands.

“Peter Braunwalder has confirmed his commitment to travel to London in order to meet with the client,” according to a 2005 internal memo that discussed one “extremely” valuable British client.

According to Swiss Leaks files, other clients whose records involved Braunwalder’s intervention or assistance included a U.S. employee of Warner Bros.’ studios; a Spanish banker seeking to transfer almost $50 million in inheritance; a German real estate agent; a Saudi-born Canadian housewife and a Belgian who met with Braunwalder at a music festival organized by HSBC.

Explore the Swiss Leaks Data

The Swiss Leaks project is based on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files that provide details on over 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts. Explore the data to see how different countries compare, and find out more about some of the clients of the bank:

Search for countries, People, and companies here:



Support Labour Heartlands


This is a "Pay as You Feel" website.

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by. If you've enjoyed reading the articles on Labour Heartlands so far, We would be incredibly grateful if you could consider making a small donation. Labour Heathlands is not your typical news outlet. We are not here to simply regurgitate the daily news cycle, that's for the rest of them. Our focus is on delving deeper, uncovering the untold stories and shedding light on the issues that the mainstream media chooses to ignore.

Our unwavering commitment to journalistic integrity means that we are not influenced by any external forces. We are not beholden to PR companies, advertisers or press barons, and we refuse to let anyone dictate what we report on. Our editorial independence is sacrosanct, and our only allegiance is to the truth.

While we do not align ourselves with any particular political party, we stand firmly against corruption, injustice and the erosion of truth and the rule of law. We believe that accurate information is the lifeblood of a democracy and that facts are not up for debate.

Once again, thank you for your support – We truly couldn't do this without you!