High Court shelves Botín Swiss bank account case

Court decides that Santander chief has “regularized” situation with the Tax Agency

The High Court has decided to shelve a case of alleged tax fraud against Emilio Botín, the chairman of leading Spanish bank Santander, and other members of his family, in connection with accounts held with HSBC’s Swiss private banking division, judicial sources said Tuesday.

The court argued that Botín and 11 other members of his family had “regularized” their situation with the Tax Agency by paying back taxes in 2010, pre-empting any possible proceedings for tax fraud.

The case arose after the French tax authorities in 2010 alerted Spain that Botín, his daughter Ana Patricia Botín (the head of Santander’s British banking unit), his brother Jaime and five of his brother’s children were among the names of 659 Spanish residents who hold secret Swiss accounts at HSBC Private Bank, with a combined value of some six billion euros.

The Botín family claimed that the money deposited in the Swiss account belonged to Botín’s father, Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López, who fled with the money from Spain after the Civil War broke out in 1936.

Twelve members of the Botín family made adjustments to 72 tax returns for the years 2005 to 2009 and paid 200 million euros in back taxes on the money they had inherited. The ruling called this procedure “correct.”

The origin of the investigation of the Botín family dates back to 2006, when an HSBC Private Bank employee stole data on 24,000 clients who held secret accounts with the lender. The employee subsequently gave the information to the French authorities.

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