BURS in the dark about Swiss bank tax evaders
Eleven individuals with links to Botswana have emerged among the 100,000 clients to have used secret Swiss accounts to launder cash and hide money from local tax authorities.
Deemed to be the biggest leak in the banking history, the trove of documents examines HSBC’s business dealings with a collection of international outlaws: tax dodgers, arms dealers and drug smugglers, politicians, pastors and even celebrities in their quest to dodge paying taxes.
Botswana has twelve client accounts opened between 1978 and 2003 and linked to only 4 bank accounts in the HSBC bank, information seen reveals. The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) had not officially responded to enquiries on this matter at press time but sources have confirmed that the lack of information exchange agreements and resources has successfully kept them in the dark about these cash movements.
BURS could not disclose whether information from the Swiss Leaks had been passed on to them to analyze and investigate.
The Swiss Leaks portal by the international consortium of investigative journalists has shown how the maximum amount of money associated with a single client connected to Botswana was $1700 (roughly P17 000) while three of the clients hold a Botswana passport or nationality.
The leaked HSBC files seen by Botswana Gazette offer a rare glimpse inside one of the world’s most private banking systems with more than $100 billion from 106,000 clients of 203 countries, and this includes Botswana. Although a report by Global Financial Integrity highlights that Botswana lost over P7 billion through illicit movement of money to tax havens between 2003 and 2012, it has emerged that most if it is lost to the 0% taxation base Cayman Islands.
Botswana country is ranked 187 among the countries which had the largest dollar amounts within the leaked files. Egypt and South Africa are the highest ranked African country with $3.5 billion and $2 billion in the accounts, respectively.
Of the 41 listed African countries only Lesotho and Swaziland have no accounts in Switzerland.
This is according to data from a former IT employee of HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary who hacked into client accounts and took almost 60,000 files before fleeing to France. Although not all these clients can claim to have made all that money legitimately, ICIJ acknowledges that not all accounts may have been set up for shady dealings.