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HSBC's India headcount rises by 4,000 despite global drop

UK-based banking major HSBC saw its India headcount rise by 4,000 people to reach 37,000 last year even as its worldwide workforce got trimmed by nearly 23,000 persons.

India figures as the second-biggest among HSBC's "main centres of employment" after the UK where the banking giant had approximately 45,000 employees at the end of 2016, down from 47,000 a year ago.

With the banking sector going through tough times, HSBC also saw its worldwide profit drop sharply in 2016, but India is among a few markets to give it a higher profit.

Its global workforce declined for the second consecutive year in 2016, after witnessing a rise in 2014.

"At December 31, 2016, HSBC had a total workforce of 2,41,000 full- and part-time employees compared with 2,64,000 at the end of 2015 and 2,66,000 at the end of 2014.

"Our main centres of employment were the UK with approximately 45,000 employees, India 37,000, Hong Kong 29,000, mainland China 24,000, Mexico 16,000, the US 13,000 and France 9,000," HSBC has said in its latest annual report.

Besides India, the bank's headcount rose in China as well. However, the number of employees declined in Honk Kong and the US.

HSBC said it encourages "employees to perform at their best and create an environment to make that possible. We also encourage employees to speak up, and reflect our purpose and values in the decisions we make and how we make them, as these decisions shape the future of our customers and colleagues".

As per the annual report, the global banking major's customer accounts in India fell to $11.3 billion in 2016, as against $11.8 billion a year ago. Globally, customer accounts fell by $17 billion to $1.27 trillion. Its profit before tax for India stood at $743 million for 2016, up from $606 million in the previous year. It paid $315 million in taxes in India for 2016, up from $286 million a year ago.

HSBC discloses tax evasion probes in India

Global banking giant HSBC has disclosed being probed by tax authorities in India and several other countries, including against its Swiss and Dubai units, for allegedly abetting tax evasion of four Indians and their families.

Besides, the bank has been approached by the regulatory and law enforcement agencies of various countries for information on persons and entities named in the leaked 'Panama Papers' – which included hundreds of Indians who had indulged in alleged tax violations through offshore tax havens with the help of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Disclosing the "tax-related investigations" in its latest annual report published last week, HSBC further said it has set aside $773 million (over Rs 5,000 crore) as a provision for various tax- and money laundering-related matters.

"There are many factors that may affect the range of outcomes, and the resulting financial impact of these investigations and reviews. Due to uncertainties and limitations of these estimates, the ultimate penalties could differ significantly from the amount provided," HSBC said, while adding that it is cooperating with the relevant authorities.

"Various tax administrations, regulatory and law enforcement authorities around the world, including in the US, France, Belgium, Argentina and India, are conducting investigations and reviews of HSBC Swiss Private Bank and other HSBC companies in connection with allegations of tax evasion or tax fraud, money laundering and unlawful cross- border banking solicitation," it said.

Giving case-wise details, it further said the Indian tax authorities in February 2015 had issued a summons and request for information to an HSBC company in India.

"In August 2015 and November 2015, HSBC companies received notices issued by two offices of the Indian tax authority alleging that the Indian tax authority had sufficient evidence to initiate prosecution against HSBC Swiss Private Bank and an HSBC company in Dubai for allegedly abetting tax evasion of four different Indian individuals and/or families and requesting that the HSBC companies show why such prosecution should not be initiated.

"HSBC Swiss Private Bank and the HSBC company in Dubai have responded to the show-cause notices," it said, but did not disclose the name of the Indian individuals.
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