HSBC bosses and BBC Trust chief face MPs over tax revelations

Public accounts committee to ask Stuart Gulliver, Chris Meares and the BBC’s Rona Fairhead key questions on tax arrangements at multinational bank

Two senior HSBC executives and the chair of the BBC Trust will be questioned by MPs on Monday about their role at the bank, whose Swiss banking arm helped wealthy clients avoid tax.

Stuart Gulliver, the bank’s chief executive, and Chris Meares, the former head of global private banking, are due to appear before the public accounts committee at 3.15pm on Monday. Rona Fairhead, the chair of the BBC Trust and an HSBC non-executive director since 2004, will also be questioned by MPs.

At a session devoted to “tax avoidance and evasion”, all three are expected to face questions on their knowledge of activities at HSBC’s Swiss banking arm, in the wake of revelations from the Guardian and a consortium of international journalists that the bank helped super-rich clients dodge taxes and conceal assets.

One notable absence will be Lord (Stephen) Green, the boss of HSBC during the period covered by the files, who went on to serve three years as a Conservative minister.

HSBC has admitted it has suffered “horrible reputational damage” over the revelations of systematic tax avoidance. Gulliver, who received £7.6m in pay and bonuses last year, recently said he was shamed and humbled.

The HSBC chief executive is also likely to find his tax affairs in the spotlight.

He was recently forced to defend his own Swiss bank account, which sheltered £5m through a Panamanian company, but has declined to say whether he still has it.

Gulliver was born in Derby but claims non-dom status, based on his many years working in Hong Kong, the place he says he now considers home. Non-dom status often brings lower payments on income and inheritance taxes.

At a recent hearing before the Treasury select committee, Gulliver said his pay arrangements were not intended to avoid tax, but he conceded that they looked odd: “I can understand how people find these kind of arrangements unusual and rather strange.”

Fairhead will come under scrutiny for her role on the HSBC board, a part-time job for which she was paid £513,000 in 2014, a 144% rise on the previous year.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, has raised questions about Fairhead’s position as head of the BBC Trust, a three-day-a-week job paying £110,000 a year, which Fairhead took up last October.

Hodge has said the BBC should look at Fairhead’s past on the HSBC board: “There are clearly question marks arising out of her role.”

A member of the BBC Trust has said it would “take note” of the results of regulatory inquiries, but was not conducting any action itself.

Also appearing before MPs on Monday will be Edward Troup, second permanent secretary at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the body charged with leading the UK investigation into the files containing a list of 6,000 names.

MPs have previously expressed concern that the list has only led to one successful UK prosecution.

The appearance of Troup is a victory for MPs, after the head of HMRC, Lin Homer, recently said “he was not the relevant official” to give evidence at an earlier hearing on the HSBC scandal.


Jennifer Rankin

The GuardianTramp

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