BNP Paribas helping rich clients evade tax: report
French bank BNP Paribas is selling financial products that permit wealthy clients to evade tax, despite European efforts to crack down on tax evasion, news weekly Marianne reported on Friday.
"BNP Paribas Private Bank, a money-management subsidiary, is in effect enabling, from Geneva, European taxpayers to escape taxation on investment income," the French magazine reported in its edition which hits the newsstands on Saturday.
BNP Paribas has created an investment product dubbed the "Luxembrella", or the Luxembourg umbrella, referring to the small European tax haven, the magazine said, without citing sources.
The "Luxembrella" is a type of financial product known as a SICAV, an open-ended collective investment fund common in western Europe.
The "Luxumbrella" capitalises on inconsistencies in a 2004 European directive on savings aimed at increased information sharing, which was not ratified by some countries including Belgium, Austria, and Luxembourg.
These countries, as well as Switzerland, which is not an EU member, instead agreed to tax at source income from assets in accounts opened by European citizens.
But this agreement does not cover certain types of investment products, including investment schemes like the "Luxembrella".
"BNP Paribas is deeply involved in this flaw," Marianne reported.
The French bank's management rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing, saying the scheme referred to in the report was an internal collective investment fund, the weekly said.
Up to 3.5 billion euros (4.9 billion dollars) has been invested in these products in the past five years, the report said.
© 2010 AFP