Head of Spain's Santander bank probed for tax fraud

16th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's national court announced Thursday it has opened a tax fraud investigation into the head of banking giant Santander, Emilio Botin, and his family.

The probe follows France's delivery to Spanish authorities of the lists of clients of the HSBC bank in Switzerland.

It targets Botin, his five children, including his daughter Patricia Botin who is head of Santander's British affiliate, as well his brother Jaime Botin and his five children.

The court said the fraud could involve "more than 120,000 euros (175,000 dollars)."

"French tax authorities sent the (Spanish) national tax agency a list of clients, among whom were the persons named, from the HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland, with funds in their accounts that had not been declared for tax purposes between 2005 and 2009," the court ruling said.

Contacted by Spanish authorities, Botin and the other family members had presented documents from the period.

But tax authorities were "incapable of determining if the payments made were complete and honest," the court said.

Botin, 76, is the 10th richest person in Spain, with a fortune estimated at 1.5 billion euros, according to Forbes magazine.

Santander is the eurozone's largest bank by market capitalisation.

The Spanish government said last October it had recovered 260 million euros in voluntary payments by Spaniards with accounts at HSBC Switzerland and which had previously been hidden from the authorities.

French authorities in January 2009 seized computer files that were stolen from HSBC by a former employee, Herve Falciani, and which contained the details of around 3,000 accounts, including the names of 659 Spaniards.

© 2011 AFP

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