“Why, in the five years since this government was first given information about how HSBC helped people evade tax, has there only been one prosecution out of 1100 individuals identified?
“And why did they appoint the Chairman of HSBC as a Tory Minister eight months after the government was told about the bank’s activities?”
George Osborne and David Cameron have some very serious questions to answer after today’s leaked material cast a new spotlight on tax avoidance – and the role of a UK bank in it – very serious questions about the role of the leader of that bank in the Coalition government.
• The Government was handed information about malpractice at HSBC in 2010 – yet took no action.
• The Chairman of HSBC, Stephen Green, was appointed as a Government Minister in January 2011, after the Government was informed of accusations of malpractice. This morning the Treasury Minister David Gauke has said he did not know whether anyone asked Mr Green about issues surrounding HSBC prior to his appointment.
• Richard Brooks, former HMRC tax inspector and BBC reporter, has said that the Treasury and HMRC “knew that there was a mass of evidence of tax evasion at the heart of HSBC” in 2011, but that the Government “simply washed their hands of it”
The timeline of events below shows clearly how Cameron personally brought Stephen Green into government – and did so after the information on HSBC’s actions was brought to the attention of the Revenue and Customs.
It also demonstrates clearly how a man who headed a bank now shown to have colluded in tax dodging which cost the UK millions, worked closely with George Osborne and served as a member of the Cabinet Committee for Banking Reform.
Meanwhile, David Hartnett, the HMRC boss who negotiated the infamous deal which more or less have HSBC immunity from prosecution over any tax fraud in Switzerland – went on himself to work for HSBC!
The emergency questions raised in Parliament today failed to provide the necessary answers.
Shabana Mahmood MP, Labour’s Shadow Exchequer Secretary, writing for Labour List on the questions the Tory-led Government has to answer over HSBC tax issues, said:
“The Government were today challenged to come clean over how they acted over the allegations of tax avoidance and evasion at HSBC.
Treasury Minister David Gauke repeatedly failed to answer questions posed.
There are now three key questions the Government must answer if we are to have any confidence at all in their commitment to tackling tax avoidance and evasion:
· Detailed information was passed to the Government in May 2010 about over a thousand HSBC clients allegedly guilty of tax evasion, and yet since then there has been just one prosecution. Why? The Minister was asked, but failed to answer.
· Lord Stephen Green was Chairman of HSBC 2006-2010 and was appointed as Trade Minister by David Cameron in January 2011. What due diligence did the Government do in advance of Lord Green’s appointment about the allegations against HSBC and what Lord Green knew about them when at the bank?
The Minister was asked, but failed to answer – repeatedly.
· When the French authorities passed this information to HMRC in May 2010, who saw it and what was done with it; were Ministers informed and what communications did HMRC have with the Treasury and No10?
The Minister was asked, but failed to answer – again, repeatedly.
Without clarity over these matters, we will only conclude that the Government has failed to act over the deeply serious matter of tackling tax avoidance and evasion.
It is essential that we now hear from Lord Green himself about what assurances he gave on his appointment to be a member of David Cameron’s government and what his role was over the HSBC allegations.”
The Government must come clean over what information was known about suggestions of malpractice at HSBC prior to Stephen Green’s appointment, what efforts were made by the Government to ensure Mr Green was not involved, and why they did nothing when evidence came to light.
2010 – HMRC receives information on leaked HSBC client list, which includes detail of UK tax avoiders
– Britain’s tax authority, HMRC, received a list in 2010 from which it identified more than 1,000 tax evaders. The Guardian, 08 February, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/08/hsbc-files-expose-swiss-bank-clients-dodge-taxes-hide-millions
July 2010 – Stephen Green goes on trade mission to India with David Cameron, where they reportedly discussed his appointment to government
– “Cameron was personally involved in recruiting Green and they are understood to have spoken during a trade delegation to India in July.” The Guardian, 7th September 2010, http://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/sep/07/stephen-green-named-trade-minister
7th September 2010 – Green announces he is standing down from HSBC to join the Government
– “The lay-preaching chairman of HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, announced plans to quit yesterday to join the Government as a trade minister.” The Times, 8th September 2010, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article2718175.ece
September 2010 – it is reported that No 10 led the recruitment of Stephen Green and that Cameron ‘wooed’ him to become a Minister
“Stephen Green, HSBC chairman, is set to become one of the most influential ministers in government, after succumbing to David Cameron’s wooing and agreeing to become trade minister.” The Financial Times, 7th September 2010, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b5ffc1ac-ba59-11df-8e5c-00144feab49a.html#axzz3QxuXT3MB
HSBC insists that the call asking Mr Green to become the new trade minister in the Coalition only came a few weeks ago – direct from the Prime Minister himself. The Telegraph, 11 September 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/kamal-ahmed/7996541/Why-Stephen-Green-really-joined-the-Government.html
16th November 2010 – takes up his seat as a Conservative member of the House of Lords
“Full title The Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint . Name Stephen Green. Joined the Lords 16 November 2010” http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-green-of-hurstpierpoint/4191
11th January 2011 – Green takes office as Trade and Investment Minister, reporting to Vince Cable and William Hague
“Lord Green, previously Group Chairman of HSBC, today joined the Prime Minister at an event for Business Ambassadors at 10 Downing Street to discuss international trade as he took up his new role as Minister of State for Trade and Investment”
In office, Stephen Green’s responsibilities were extensive
The minister is responsible for trade and investment.
This role is shared between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Responsibilities include:
• developing and implementing cross-government strategy for trade and inward investment
• UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), UK Export Finance (Export Credits Guarantee Department) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Prosperity Directorate
• speaking for the government on trade and investment issues in the House of Lords
• membership of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group
• coordinating European business
• multilateral trade policy
• single market and implementation”
Stephen Green chaired David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group
“The Minister will chair the Council of Business Ambassadors which he will be introduced to by the Prime Minister and become a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Network.” Government Announcement, 11 Jan 2011, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-green-takes-office-as-trade-and-investment-minister
As part of this role, Stephen Green worked closely with George Osborne and served as a member of the Cabinet Committee for Banking Reform
“Lord Green was appointed as Minister of State for Trade and Investment on 11 January 2011. He reports to the Secretary of State for Business and the Foreign Secretary. As part of his responsibilities, Lord Green will now also support the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Financial Secretary to the Treasury on Treasury matters, in particular financial services and banking issues. He is already a member of the Cabinet Committee for Banking Reform.”
HM Treasury Press Release, 1 Nov 2011, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-green-of-hurstpierpoint
July 2012 – US Senate investigation reveals HSBC involved in money laundering “Global banking giant HSBC and its U.S. affiliate exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls, a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe has found.” Senate Subcommittee Press Release, 16 July 2012, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/media/hsbc-exposed-us-finacial-system-to-money-laundering-drug-terrorist-financing-risks
July 2012 – David Cameron insists that Lord Green has his full confidence
“Downing Street sources insisted that David Cameron has full confidence in the minister and dismissed the Labour attack…”As far as we are concerned, he’s not going anywhere – there are no allegations against him and all this information was already in the public domain,” said a No 10 source.” The Telegraph, 18 July 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9410134/Lord-Green-under-pressure-over-HSBC-money-laundering.html
10 December 2013 – Stephen Green stands down, replaced by Lord Livingstone
“Ian Livingston will be Minister of State jointly at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office following the retirement from government of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint.” Lord Livingston has today (10 December 2013) succeeded Lord Green as Trade and Investment Minister, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-livingston-becomes-new-trade-minister
David Cameron and senior Tories’ comments on Stephen Green
“David Cameron said he was “delighted” to bring Mr Green on board. He added: ”With Stephen’s experience and expertise, I know he will make an invaluable contribution towards this crucial agenda, helping to drive strong economic growth in the UK.”” The Telegraph, 7th September 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/7986892/HSBC-chairman-Stephen-Green-named-Trade-Minister.html
“Stephen Green has made a huge contribution to promoting trade and investment, leading the reform and rejuvenation of UK Trade and Investment, which now assists a significantly greater number of small and medium-sized businesses to export around the globe.” David Cameron, 10 Dec 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-livingston-becomes-new-trade-minister
“Under the coalition Government, the Foreign Office is making economic and commercial objectives a priority in our international engagement. Stephen’s appointment will hugely strengthen our work to secure the UK’s economic recovery, promote open markets and inward investment and support greater access for British companies worldwide.” William Hague, The Telegraph, 7th September 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/7986892/HSBC-chairman-Stephen-Green-named-Trade-Minister.html
Transcript from the Today programme where David Gauke is asked whether anyone questioned Mr Green about malpractice at HSBC in the run up to his appointment and replies, “I don’t know”.
SM: The question I asked you though was whether the government was aware of what had been happening and HMRC certainly was aware of what had been happening in HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland in May 2010. Stephen Green was appointed in September 2010, made a Conservative peer and appointed to the government in 2010 so that appointment was made knowingly then?
DG: Well it was in the public domain that HSBC, the leaks that occurred in respect of HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland in 2007 so the answer to that is yes, but what I’m saying to you is that there is a suggestion and there has been no evidence that suggests that Stephen Green was involved in that particular activity.
SM: Did you ask him specifically about that at in the run up to his appointment?
DG: I didn’t speak to Stephen Green about his appointment but in terms of…
SM: Did anyone in the government ask him about it?
DG: It is not for me to say, I don’t know
The Today Programme, 9th February 2015
Richard Brooks transcript from the Today programme
You’re referring to the Agreement that was signed between the UK & Switzerland government in October 2007. The aim there was to bring in billions of pounds in unpaid… RB: 2011. That was signed in 2011. It was… David Gauke, Tax Minister, and David Hartnett the senior tax official, started negotiating it straight after they’d received this data from the French authorities, so they knew that there was a mass of evidence of tax evasion at the heart of HSBC. They set about negotiating agreement with the Swiss Government which says – I’ve got the words in front of me – it says that, “It is highly unlikely to be in the public interest of the United Kingdom that professional advisors, Swiss paying agents and their employees – in other words bankers – will be subject to a criminal investigation by HMRC.” So knowing they’re sitting on all this evidence they’ve simply washed their hands of it and said we’re not going to prosecute. And that’s why no one has come before the courts in five years.
Richard Brooks, BBC Radio 4: Today, 9 February 2015