The Paradise Papers and HSBC. Who?

Mr Ethical @nw_nicholas on the role of the media in reporting the HSBC element of the Paradsise Papers revelations – and why we didn’t hear as much as we should have [see also Whistleblower wins 13-year campaign against HSBC] …

So, there has been a flurry of excitement about a new leak from a professional firm situated a long way away, that has helped the rich avoid paying tax in their home countries.  This new leak has roped in the Queen, Lewis Hamilton, Mrs Brown’s Boys and various other dispensable persons.

Except it’s not really a leak, more of an ooze, squeezed out from the BBC and the Guardian. I don’t know who leaked the data, but it was passed to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung who in turn shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), who in turn shared it with other news outlets, including the BBC and the Guardian, in the UK.

When the  ICIJ first announced the leak, from Bermuda law firm Appleby, they stated that amongst Appleby’s biggest clients was Glencore, Shell, Goldman Sachs and HSBC.


This of course meant that nobody in the UK would hear about the involvement of the UK’s largest bank, a bank implicated in every major fraud, corruption and tax evasion scandal in the world, including Guptas, FIFA, Rolls Royce, Petrobras, Russian Laudromat, Luxleaks, Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers etc etc. HSBC.

Why wouldn’t the Guardian or the BBC report about HSBC? Last year, the Guardian, which is the largest recipient of advertising revenue from HSBC of all UK online papers, had its HSBC advertising suspended because it reported on Swiss Leaks (the huge tranche of data on tax avoidance leaked from HSBC by Hervé Falciani.) The ever financially struggling Guardian will not make that mistake again and happily continues to carry advertisements for HSBC and its largest shareholder Fisher Investments. It has therefore ignored HSBC in its reporting of Paradise Papers.

As for the BBC, BBC Advertising ran an advert for HSBC, “The World is My Oyster”. One of the objectives of the advert was to “drive respondents to HSBC’s Expat Explorer”. (


It is perhaps worth recalling that Baroness Fairhead, who is now International Trade Minister, was Chair of the BBC Trust at the time, as well as being a director of HSBC, responsible for risk  in North America at the time HSBC were “fined” $1.9bn in lieu of being prosecuted for laundering money for the Sinaloa Mexican drug carted and terrorists with links to Al Qaeda. Her vice chair was Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of BAE Systems, which sells billions worth of arms to Saudi Arabia so that they can carry out one of the greatest humanitarian crises, in Yemen, also, shamefully under reported by the BBC.

However, Fairhead having left the BBC doesn’t mean their cosy relationship has ended. On 1st November BBC Capital website ( ran an article on ex-pats, with, yes, a link to HSBC’s Expat Explorer. Still driving those customers.


So, it is unlikely that the BBC, which is freely carrying links to an HSBC site providing tax advice to ex-pats, is going to report on the central role of HSBC in one of the worlds largest leaks of tax avoidance date.

The BBC might also have another reason to be bit sheepish about tax avoidance. There is a well known tax avoidance vehicle known as a Dutch Royalty Conduit, where a company will have a shell company in Amsterdam in order to channel royalties, because royalties in the Netherlands are not taxed. BBC has such a shell company – BBC Worldwide Holdings BV which is registered at the premises of a company Intertrust, which according to Wikipedia, specialises in tax avoidance. There are no staff registered at the BBC Worldwide Holdings, it is just a letterbox company.

You might think this is golden opportunity for Labour, in opposition, to attack the BBC and establishment cosy relationship with HSBC. I have been trying to interest Labour for many years in a massive consumer debt fraud by HSBC but unfortunately they have taken no interest. But at lease Jeremy Corbyn is supporting a petition on Twitter to end tax avoidance. I’m quite sure when the robber barons read that we will all live in a fairer, more equitable society.


Ultimately, however, I believe the silence surrounding HSBC is to do with the corruption surrounding the government’s seduction of Saudi Aramco to hold its IPO at the London Stock Exchange next year. This has involved bribes, lobbying for HSBC and changing the rules by the Financial Conduct Authority. Post brexit Britain is going to need every scrap of business it can muster by any means. Exposing HSBC as one on the most criminally involved banks in tax evasion will not help.

Whilst the trillions of the wealthy are safely stashed offshore, the rest of the UK population fight among themselves for the scraps left, and enjoy exposés of a few famous rich people not breaking the law.

Comments (7)

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  1. Graeme McCormick says:

    One can’t help but wonder why the Scottish government doesn’t use these opportunities to raise issues of potential wrongdoing by banks, etc.

    It has control of the Land Register and could introduce a clean money test before property purchases and mortgage documents could be registered in the Land Register.

    Such an initiative would set Scotland apart from the rest of the UK and prevent certain people and organisations and institutions from having a stake in our land

    1. Grafter says:

      Excellent idea.

    2. Alf Baird says:

      “..prevent certain people and organisations and institutions from having a stake in our land”

      You mean like the offshore owners of Scotland’s major ports, airports, energy, whisky, land/estates, oil & gas, aggregates etc ad infinitum? Pretty much most of the big corporate assets in Scotland seem to be owned offshore, all thanks to successive UK governments. Scotland’s economy is essentially owned offshore and we have no idea by whom, or where they got their money from, except that they depend on No voters to continue this unhindered exploitation of economic rents, although thus far even the SNP has shown little awareness of the issue or appetite for change, even if Scotland were independent.

  2. Dominic Berry says:

    I often think of our struggle for independence from England, not as independence from the English people, but from a Parliament which is unduly influenced by lobbies like HSBC. If we could extract these companies from the UK and relocate them in Panama, they would be obliged to gamble with their own money, rather than bailouts from the public.

    We are told they are “wealth creators”, “job creators”…
    They have created the biggest national debt in British history.

    When they notice others are in debt to them, they freely apply the law, removing their homes and belongings. Presented with their own debts, they grab hold of any rational why we shouldn’t just lock them up and they can negotiate with the Mexican drug cartels and Al Quaida candidates directly in jail cells together.

  3. George Gunn says:

    The Great Corruption stinks at every level, including the Scottish Government. As an independent nation we can try and de-louse as Iceland is trying to. There is no other way open to us. The Great Corruption is embedded deep in the workings of the UK.

  4. w.b.robertson says:

    Taking action v the big battalions? Don’t hold yer breath. Holyrood is too busy on other priorities – like introducing baby boxes and putting up the price of bevvy for the punters.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Dinna forgit thon ‘High Hedges Bill’, wb; whaur wid we bi withoot thon? At’s whit ye caw veesion ! Mebbe ane day we’ll e’en hae a ‘Scots Langage Act’, tho A wadna haud ma braith.

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