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The Boston Globe

Business

Britain begins tax probe of HSBC

LONDON — HSBC’s legal troubles are growing: The British tax authorities said Friday that they were looking into a list of HSBC clients with bank accounts in the tax haven of Jersey.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Britain’s tax authority, is investigating more than 4,000 accounts in Jersey that belong to British clients after receiving details from a whistle-blower. The list includes a drug dealer and a man convicted of possessing more than 300 weapons at his home in the south of England, The Daily Telegraph reported.

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‘‘We have received the data and we are studying it,’’ a tax authority spokesman wrote in an e-mailed statement. ‘‘Clamping down on those who try to cheat the system through evading taxes and over-claiming benefits is a top priority for us, and we value the information we receive from the public and business community.’’

Jersey, the largest island in the English Channel, is a British dependency with its own tax system.

HSBC, Britain’s largest bank, is already part of an investigation into money laundering. The bank said earlier this month that it set aside an additional $800 million to cover potential fines from the money-laundering case, bringing the total to $1.5 billion. The bank, which is negotiating a settlement with US authorities, added that the actual fine could be even bigger.

In addition, HSBC, like other major British banks, has had to set aside cash to reimburse British customers who were sold inappropriate insurance products.

HSBC said Friday in a statement that the bank was ‘‘investigating the reports of an alleged loss of certain client data in Jersey as a matter of urgency.’’ The bank said it had not yet been informed of any investigation but would fully cooperate with the authorities.

“HSBC remains fully committed to adoption of the highest global standards, including the procedures for the acceptance of clients,’’ it said.

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