John Malkovich sues French daily Le Monde

John Malkovich has filed a defamation suit against French newspaper Le Monde over Swissleaks reports the US actor says incorrectly stated he owned a secret Swiss account, his lawyer said on Monday.

John Malkovich sues French daily Le Monde
US actor John Malkovich. Photo: AFP
Paris attorney Herve Temime said in a statement that Malkovich blamed Le Monde for “the considerable damage inflicted on his honour” in linking him to a tax evasion scheme allegedly operated by British bank HSBC, and described the actor as “profoundly shocked that his name could be denounced this way.”
Temime said a type of fast-track defamation litigation had been filed in Paris against Le Monde and its two lead Swissleaks investigative reporters over two articles published last February, and that the actor wishes “this false accusation to be punished.”
The contested Le Monde reports examined a tax evasion system HSBC is accused of having operated for wealthy clients. It cited Malkovich in a list of well-known affluent customers who purportedly held secret accounts in HSBC's Swiss affiliate between 2005 and 2007 as part of the dodge.
But according to Temime, the only Swiss account Malkovich ever used was a securities portfolio between 1994 and 1999 registered with a financial company later bought out by HSBC, and which he had declared to US authorities.
Temime said “the paper knew” that Malkovich's account was unrelated to the kind that former HSBC IT specialist Herve Falciani leaked to authorities and the media as proof of the bank's tax evasion activities for its rich clients.

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HSBC to pay France €300million to avoid tax fraud trial

HSBC Private Bank, a Swiss unit of banking giant HSBC, has agreed to pay 300 million euros ($352 million) to avoid going to trial in France for enabling tax fraud, prosecutors said Tuesday.

HSBC to pay France €300million to avoid tax fraud trial
Photo: AFP

HSBC was accused last year of helping French clients to hide at least 1.67 billion euros from the tax authorities, according to a source close to the probe.

The deal struck between the financial crime prosecutor's office and the bank is a first in France under a new procedure that allows companies under
suspicion of corruption or dissimulation of tax fraud to negotiate a fine to stop a case from going to trial.

The deal does not include a guilty plea.

French prosecutors have now dropped the case against HSBC Holdings.

The case against HSBC was opened back in 2015 and was over an alleged global tax-dodging scheme that helped hundreds of French nationals and pothers around the world evade the tax man.

Investigators believe that HSBC's private banking division offered its customers several ways of hiding assets from the French taxman, notably via the use of offshore tax havens.

The banking giant was at first accused of failing in its supervisory role over its private banking division, but further investigation led to suspicions
that HSBC “participated actively in the fraudulent practices”, the source close to the investigation said.

The probe named the former chief executive of the bank's Swiss private banking arm, Peter Braunwalder, and another executive, Judah Elmaleh.

The case began when French authorities in late 2008 received files stolen by Herve Falciani, a former HSBC employee, whose disclosures sparked the so-called “Swissleaks” scandal on bank-supported tax evasion.

The French-Italian national — dubbed by some media as “The Edward Snowden of banking” — leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating that HSBC helped more than 120,000 clients of a number of nationalities to hide 180.6 billion euros from tax authorities between November 2006 and March 2007.

He was sentenced in absentia in November in Switzerland to five years in prison. The leaked files led to investigations by tax authorities in several European countries including, in addition to France, Spain and Belgium.