Argentina says UK asks for cooperation in HSBC tax probe
By Hugh Bronstein
BUENOS AIRES Feb 11 (Reuters) - Britain has asked Argentina for information about the South American country's investigation into HSBC Holdings Plc, Buenos Aires said on Wednesday, part of a widening probe into allegations that the bank helped clients dodge taxes.
Early this week a panel of British lawmakers said they planned to open an inquiry into the British bank after media reports that it helped wealthy customers conceal assets.
In November Argentina charged HSBC with helping more than 4,000 clients evade taxes by stashing their money in secret Swiss bank accounts. HSBC Argentina rejected the charge, saying it respected Argentine law.
"The British tax authority (HMRC) would like information about the details of the charges against the bank in Argentina, and information about the status of the case," a statement from Argentina's AFIP tax authority said.
HMRC declined immediate comment on Wednesday.
After a leak of its Swiss bank's customer list, HSBC said on Sunday that its Swiss arm had not been fully integrated after its purchase in 1999, allowing significantly lower standards of compliance and due diligence to persist.
British lawmakers have criticized HMRC for not doing more, sooner, to investigate HSBC and to prosecute those who used the bank to evade tax.
The bank also faces investigation by U.S. authorities who have stepped up efforts to establish whether the world's second-largest bank helped Americans evade taxes.
In 2012, HSBC paid a record $1.9 billion fine after U.S. authorities said it had become the preferred financial institution for drug traffickers and money launderers between 2006 and 2010.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin in London and Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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