HSBC pays 300mn Euro to settle French probe of Swiss bank

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HSBC has agreed to pay €300m ($353m; £266m) to French authorities to settle a long-running investigation into tax evasion by French clients.

However, HSBC Switzerland announced on Tuesday that the settlement did not mean that the bank was guilty.

In 2014, French financial prosecutor launched a probe over HSBC Private Bank on charges of "illegal banking and financial solicitation" and "aggravated money laundering".

The deal struck between the financial crime prosecutor's office and the bank is a first in France under a new procedure.

Payment of the fine will close the case against HSBC but two former directors could yet face legal action. Investigators believe that HSBC's private banking division offered its customers several ways of hiding assets from the French taxman, notably via the use of offshore tax havens. In 2015 a Swiss court sentenced him in absentia to five years in prison for industrial espionage.

Europe's largest bank has acknowledged "control weaknesses" and said it had taken firm steps to address them.

The French investigation found that several French taxpayers had not declared to tax authorities assets held in the books of the Swiss private bank, which provided French clients with services used to hide assets.