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Spain probes former HSBC officials over money laundering

AFP, MADRID

A Spanish court is investigating seven former executives of HSBC Holdings PLC’s private Swiss unit on suspicion of money laundering following an investigation of documents in the “Swissleaks” scandal on bank-supported tax evasion, legal sources said on Thursday.

In an order dated January, but not published until now, the Spanish National High Court named seven persons under suspicion of “persistent money laundering and criminal association,” who in 2006 and 2007 held senior positions at the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC.

They include former chairman Peter Widmer, as well as former chief executives Christopher Meares and Clive Bannister.

The investigation, which began in May last year, is based on the “Falciani list,” a cache of files listing unreported accounts of customers of the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC that was stolen in 2008 by former employee Herve Falciani.

SWISSLEAKS

The “Swissleaks” scandal has triggered the opening of proceedings in France, Spain, Belgium and Argentina.

According to the order, the Spanish court suspects possible “collaboration” by HSBC in the transfer and repatriation of funds deposited in the Swiss accounts with “the intention to conceal them from the Spanish treasury.”

To make these transfers, HSBC would have collaborated with Spain’s Banco Santander SA and the Spanish subsidiary of the French bank BNP Paribas SA.

The Spanish National High Court said it considered there were “indications of suspicion of money laundering.”

SANTANDER, BNP

On Wednesday, the court announced that 10 officials in Spain from Santander and the Spanish subsidiary of BNP Paribas had been indicted in the alleged money laundering case involving HSBC.

Judge Jose de la Mata ordered the 10 defendants, seven officials from Santander and three from the Spanish branch of BNP Paribas, to appear in court in the middle of next month.

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