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Former HSBC Swiss private bank CEO pleads guilty in €1.6B French tax case

Peter Braunwalder, the former CEO of HSBC Holdings PLC unit HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA, was fined €500,000 and given a one-year suspended jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to helping wealthy clients avoid taxes on assets worth at least €1.6 billion, Bloomberg News reported, citing a Paris court ruling.

Braunwalder admitted that he was involved in helping clients hide the assets between 2006 and 2007 by setting up offshore trusts, opening secret Swiss bank accounts or providing fake loans, according to the Aug. 7 report.

Braunwalder, who left his role at HSBC a decade ago, also pleaded guilty to illegally approaching French residents to urge them to transfer funds to Switzerland during the period, the news agency added.

HSBC's Swiss private bank came under the eye of French authorities after Herve Falciani, a former IT worker at the company, shared with investigators client account details stolen from the firm's Geneva office in 2008, Bloomberg noted.

In November 2017, HSBC reached a €300 million settlement with the French financial prosecutor over allegations in the same case. The French prosecutor said two unnamed former directors of HSBC's Swiss unit, who BBC News identified at the time as Braunwalder and another executive, Judah Elmaleh, were still under scrutiny and could face potential legal action.

Reuters recently reported that the Swiss unit will pay €294.4 million to the Belgian state to settle a tax fraud case.