The ‘stench of corruption’ among Britain’s banks and corporate organisations must be addressed during this May’s election campaign, according to an Oldham MP.
Labour MP Michael Meacher blasted financial malpractice in all its forms including HSBC’s recent tax avoidance scandal and called for a ‘relentless demand to clean up Britain’.
HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver himself got dragged into the tax-dodging scandal as he held £5million in a Swiss account and had huge bonuses paid through an anonymous company registered in Panama.
Mr Gulliver claimed the reason for this was not to avoid tax but to prevent colleagues from finding out how much he earned in bonuses.
However the 75-year-old MP is outraged that he is now being rewarded with a total remuneration package of some £7.5million after the bank announced profits of £13billion for last year.
“It is incredible how the reports of corruption in Britain are now going from bad to worse almost every single day,” Mr Meacher said.
“What adds insult to injury is that instead of [Mr Gulliver] being forced to stand down for deliberately profiting from the financial malpractice he was supposed to be regulating and closing down, he is now getting a remuneration package.
“This is not just a one-off scandal. The stench of corruption among Britain’s elites as revealed over the last few years has now become so suffocating that this election must now be centred around a relentless demand to clean up Britain.”
Mr Meacher called a full-scale inquiry to be conducted into HSBC dealings over the last 15 years to establish if there are grounds for prosecution for criminal negligence.
He believed it should be assessed whether the bank could be prosecuted for conspiracy to defraud the UK tax authorities under the Criminal Law Act 1977, for its activities in an operation to deprive HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of revenue.
“This of course is on top of HSBC’s known history of Libor rigging, money laundering on behalf of drug cartels and pariah states, and PPI mis-selling,” Mr Meacher said.
“The outcome of this inquiry should lead to a decision as to whether the culture of HSBC is now so grossly polluted that it should be broken up.”
Mr Meacher also felt that Chancellor George Osborne’s promise for new financial and civil penalties for those who facilitate tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance ‘failed to hit the mark’.
“Mere financial or civil penalties are thoroughly inadequate because the bank shareholders pay the fines however large they are and the executive perpetrators are let completely off the hook,” he said.
“Criminal penalties are excluded when it is only the threat of chief executives or other top executives being sent to prison for tax evasion.”