HMRC in the spotlight over handling of HSBC
With France and the UK at loggerheads over the HSBC leaks, and Swiss prosecutors carrying out a connected money-laundering probe, the UK’s tax enforcement agency, HMRC, is under fire over how it chose to tackle potential misconduct linked to the bank’s activities.
In a statement, HMRC said it had repeatedly asked French authorities for permission to use the data for other purposes, such as money-laundering investigations. However, France never gave its consent.
However, HMRC may have been able to pass the information to other UK enforcers through different means.
Andrew Smith at Corker Binning in London said: “There is certainly always an informal dialogue between the UK’s agencies.
“There would be nothing wrong in law with HMRC contacting the Serious Fraud Office or the police, and telling them that the French tax authorities have information that may be of interest to them,” he added. At that point these other UK authorities would then have to request the information formally.”
Andrew Smith said HMRC may have been concerned that the provenance of evidence, which was allegedly stolen from HSBC by Falciani, may have affected any potential prosecutions.
“There is a very important rule in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act enabling courts to refuse to admit evidence if it would have an adverse effect on the fairness of proceedings,” he said. “My own view is that defence lawyers would be able to make considerable mileage out of the provenance of the data.”
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