High Court to launch investigation into Botín family for tax fraud

Banco Santander chairman Emilio Botín to face scrutiny for accounts held in HSBC's Swiss private banking division

Banco Santander chairman Emilio Botín and members of his family will be investigated for tax fraud and submitting false documents in relation to accounts they hold in HSBC's Swiss private banking division, the Spanish High Court announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the court said that French tax authorities last year alerted Spain that Botín, his daughter Ana Patricia Botín - the head of Santander's British banking unit - his brother Jaime and five of his children were among the names of 659 Spanish residents who hold secret Swiss accounts at HSBC totaling 6 billion euros.

The Botín family did not declare the money on the returns from 2005-2009, the High Court said.

But a family spokesman said that the Botíns are up to date with the tax payments after making "a voluntary and complete adjustment" and "hopes that very soon this whole matter is clarified satisfactorily in court."

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Quoting sources close to the family, Efe has reported that the money deposited in the Swiss account belonged to Botín's father, Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López, who opened it in 1936 after fleeing Spain at the end of the Civil War.

After meeting with the Botín family to try to clear up the problem, officials from Spain's AEAT tax-collection agency said they were "incapable of determining whether the adjustments were complete and accurate" from the "huge documentation" the family had given them. The AEAT turned over the case to anti-corruption prosecutors who later presented it to the High Court. Spaniards who held secret Swiss accounts have been given until June 30 of this year to clear up any back taxes they owe AEAT.

"Because it is impossible to evaluate the declarations within the deadline, the investigation is necessary," said High Court Judge Fernando Andreu in the statement.

Of the 659 taxpayers' names on the list, about 300 have voluntarily made efforts to clear their back taxes, Treasury officials say.

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