By Jonathan Davies
HSBC has confirmed that its chief executive Stuart Gulliver uses a Swiss bank account to hold his bonuses.
It follows a report by the Guardian which said that Mr Gulliver holds £5 million in an account which he controls using a company based in Panama.
The statement came just hours before the bank reported a 17% fall in its profit for 2014. The trading update also revealed Mr Gulliver's overall pay fell from £8.03m in 2013 to £7.6m this year. His base £1.25m salary was unchanged. But due to European bonus rules, his bonus dropped from £5.5m to £3.4m. The HSBC boss also received a £1.7m "fixed pay allowance".
The statement released by HSBC did not mention the Panamanian company, but stressed that Mr Gulliver pays his taxes in Hong Kong, where he lives, and pays the required UK taxes.
It's important to note that the Guardian's article does not suggest any wrongdoing on Start Gulliver's part. But it adds to questions over HSBC's tax activities in Switzerland.
A BBC Panorama investigation accused the bank of helping hundreds of customers to avoid paying tax in the UK, using its business in Geneva. Last week, HSBC published a full apology, signed by Mr Gulliver.
The Financial Conduct Authority, HMRC, Swiss prosecutors and MPs on the Treasury Committee are investigating the allegations.
The former director of public prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald, said HSBC has left itself open to criminal charges in the UK.
In a legal opinion prepared for consumer group SumOfUs, Lord Macdonald said: "It seems clear, from the evidence we have seen, that there exists credible evidence that HSBC Swiss and/or its employees have engaged over many years in systematic and profitable collusion in serious criminal activity against the exchequers of a number of countries.
"The corporate and wholesale nature of HSBC Swiss's apparent involvement in what amounts to grave cross border crime makes it all the more obvious that the relevant evidence, once it came the attention of HMRC, should have been the subject of urgent and sustained criminal investigation."