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HSBC Aided Money Laundering in Argentina, Tax Chief Says

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s tax agency accused the local unit of HSBC Holdings Plc. of conspiracy to hide bank accounts, thereby helping private companies evade tax payments and launder money.

The Buenos Aires-based agency investigated accounts at the bank over a six-month period and discovered tax evasion of 224 million pesos ($44 million) and 392 million pesos in money laundering, it said. According to agency Director Ricardo Echegaray, the bank set up a system to help companies hide bank accounts.

“It’s clear to us that there was a conspiracy between HSBC and private companies,” Echegaray told reporters today in Buenos Aires. “The first thing they have to do is to pay the state what it’s owed and dismantle a gang of swindlers.”

Federal Judge Javier Lopez Biscayart of the tax crimes court in Buenos Aires has received the agency’s file against the bank, Echegaray said.

“The allegations made by regulators in Argentina are of great concern,” Lyssette Bravo, an HSBC spokeswoman for Latin America, said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg News. “We are committed to working cooperatively with authorities to ensure a thorough review and appropriate resolution of the matter.”

HSBC is the seventh-largest bank by deposits in Argentina, according to the central bank website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires at eraszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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