France rejects UK claim over HSBC files

France rejects UK claim over HSBC files
HSBC Private Bank helped hundreds of French nationals dodge taxes, new revelations claim. Photo: AFP
France's Finance Minister Michel Sapin rejected on Friday an accusation from British authorities claiming that France barred them from accessing leaked HSBC files containing the names of thousands of alleged tax evaders.

Sapin was forced to defend the actions of the French government after a UK tax chief and senior Tory politician claimed British authorities were denied access to the leaked files so they could pursue legal action.

Tax Office boss Lyn Homer told the UK parliament on Friday that their hands were tied by treaties signed with France, the Guardian newspaper reports.

Tory treasury minister David Gauke backed up those claims and said France only allowed them access to the files on Monday the day after the allegations that HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland had helped over 100,000 people evade tax, made headlines around the world.

But in an interview with Le Monde newspaper French minister Sapin dismissed the British version of events.

“I have not understood the comments made by the British authorities. The data on HSBC was transmitted to them in 2010, in the framework of the bilateral conventions that bind us. Nothing has been said to them since.

"These conventions do restrict the use of the information to tax purposes.

“But if the British tax office wants to bring court cases, it is entitled to do so. The rest is a matter of judicial co-operation.”

The details of the tax fraudsters hit international headlines on Sunday, where in France it was revealed that around 6,000 rich French lawyers, artists, businessmen and even a World Cup winner dodged taxes. 

French newspaper Le Monde played a leading role in revealing the details of the scam, which saw HSBC helping clients in more than 200 countries evade taxes on accounts containing $119 billion (€104 billion).

The French paper, which obtained files leaked by a whistleblower, shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which comprises dozens of media organisations worldwide.

Meet the whistleblower behind the leaks – France's Edward Snowden

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