Last week the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a team of journalists from 45 countries, published leaked information about secret bank accounts at the Swiss branch of HSBC Private Bank.
The over 60,000 files relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion in total and provide information about more than 100,000 clients, their accounts and the amounts of money hidden in Switzerland, far away from their national tax authorities. The data was first given to the French government and the newspaper ‘Le Monde’ in 2008 already by a whistle-blower from HSBC and later shared with the ICIJ.
The two cartograms shown on this page reveal the global picture that emerges from the leaked data: They show the countries of the world resized according to the total number of clients and the absolute value of their accounts allocated to their respective country of origin:
The dominance of European countries immediately stands out from these visualisations. Switzerland and the United Kingdom are on top of the list, with $31.2 billion and $21.7 billion respectively; France, Italy, and Belgium are also in the top 10.
Equally visible – not entirely surprising – is the importance of so called ‘tax havens’ or offshore financial centres (http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=3908) such as the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean, both ranked among the top 15 countries.
In South and Central America, the countries standing out from the rest are Venezuela, Brazil, Panama, and Uruguay, ranked 3rd, 9th, 25th and 26th respectively. According to the documents, 696 clients from Venezuela hold an account with approximately $14.8 billion of savings in total; the maximum amount of money associated with a single client from Venezuela was $11.9 billion, a client linked to the Venezuelan government (http://www.icij.org/project/swiss-leaks/explore-swiss-leaks-data). This leaves just about $3 billion of savings to the remaining 695 clients from that country.
The Middle East is dominated by Israel (ranked 6th), Saudi Arabia (rank 11) and Lebanon (rank 12).