STOLEN computer files with more than 100,000 names, nationalities, account information and detailed notes between the Swiss arm of Europe’s biggest bank HSBC and its clients have been revealed, and along with them, a lot of dirty laundry.
The disclosure, now dubbed “Swiss Leaks”, is the biggest such exposure in Swiss banking history. It started when a computer security specialist named Hervé Falciani stole a huge cache of data in 2007 and gave it to the French government.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained the leaked files and have created a database which has given the world a rare glimpse into the secretive world of Swiss banking.
The data are now being used to go after tax cheats all over the world, even as information shows many governments have done little with it, despite having been in possession of the files since 2010.
The leaks have revealed that some of the bank’s business dealings included with a collection of international outlaws – from tax dodgers and arms dealers to drug smugglers and money launderers. They also reveal how the bank tried to accommodate the secrecy needs of clients-including offering various ways of concealing the ownership of the account—thereby actively helping them to evade and cheat.
Not all the people on the database have been exposed, but the information so far reveals a particularly interesting trend. In 11 of the 12 African countries that ranked highest (in terms of client money) on the list, less than 35% of the clients actually held a passport or the nationality of the corresponding country. But that was just the start.
According to country classifications, the maximum amount of money associated with a client connected to Eritrea is amounted to $695.2 million. This was from a total of 32 client accounts that were opened between 1981 and 2006 and linked to 39 bank accounts. For the record, Eritrea got its independence in 1993.
The interesting part of the story is that, out of the 32 clients that are associated with Eritrea, only 28% or 9 clients have “Eritrean” passport or nationality. The question that begs to be asked is who are these remaining 23 clients and from which nationality? Why do they claim of being “Eritrean” to open their secret accounts way before the country Eritrea came into being? It seems that Swiss banks minds only on the money but not the passport.
Unfortunately, since the leaks have not yet provided the full list of people, it is difficult to ascertain who the clients were and their motivations. However, today HSBC’s two clients from Asmara have been identified.
In 1981, while Eritrea was still at war for its independence against Ethiopia, an “Eritrean” by the name of Hassan Abdalla Bashir, then aged 24, opened an account with HSBC in Geneva as a “banker“.
Six years later, another “Eritrean” by the name of Ghebreselassi Kidane Habte, 37, opened an account as a “car driver“. Both were registered as residents of Asmara.
As of 2007, Ghebreselassi Kidane Habte deposited more than USD $106 million in the bank while Hassan Abdalla Bashir, the “Banker” deposited more than USD $209 million. Their collective secret deposit at the HSBC exceeds USD $315 million.
The discrepancy with the story of the $695.2 million Eritrea related asset with the HSBC is, either for political expediency or out of sheer stupidity, the figures simply do not add up.
Earlier, it was reported there exists one account that made the single largest deposit of USD $450 million under an “Eritrean” name along with another account with $90 million deposited as well as over 20 accounts with deposits of under $1 million dollars. If the two accounts that belong to the driver and the banker only constitute more than $315 million, how on earth another account with $450 million can be made to make up the $695.2 million, lest the the $90 million and the other 20 accounts with deposits of under $1 million dollars?
That is a question left to its authors besides to those despicable liars within the Eritrean group of “Opponents” who labors very hard to stretch the said story with government corruption. Their desperation, however, resonates strongly in their futile attempt to link up mining revenue, that only came into being by late 2010, with the story.
— Rokas Beresniovas (@beresniovas) February 14, 2015