The Swiss Leaks project is based on a trove of almost 60,000 leaked files that provide details on over 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts. From blood diamonds to tax evasion, the files have allowed HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, to incriminate itself. HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary has been providing banking services to relatives of dictators, people implicated in African corruption scandals, arms industry figures and anyone looking to avoid taxes. Swiss banking rules have since 1998 required high levels of diligence on the accounts of politically connected figures, but money can make anything happen. The bank is already facing criminal investigations and charges in France, Belgium, the US and Argentina as a result of the leak of the files. Basically, they have been acting as a tax avoidance and tax evasion service. Though this has been known for quite some time, the banks are protected by secrecy laws. Swiss bankers have also been charging high prices in return for their silence. Large bank transactions are a classic warning sign of unusual behaviour. The leaked documents show that HSBC was handing out substantial cash withdrawals to clients in currencies that would have been useless in Switzerland. There will be many a legal case opened against wealth individuals in Europe. What has to be determined is how many laws were being broken and how many laws were being stretched. These cases of malpractice will become legal battles and it is all in the hands of lawyers now.

But what of Pakistani individuals with money in Switzerland? The leaks make it clear that there were only a very small percentage of people who were legitimate customers and did not engage in duplicitous activities, probably less than 20 percent. Pakistan’s foreign exchange market is open and it is not illegal to keep a foreign account if the amount is formally declared to the local revenue authorities. There is approximately $859.7 million in 2006-07 belonging to Pakistani nationals, which is not a huge amount. However, the amount of money does not reveal the full extent the assets that Switzerland holds for us. The recent acquisition of Pakistani branch operations of HSBC by Meezan Bank as one of the reasons for the lower-than-expected estimate of Pakistani wealth stashed away. The problem is that of getting names, and the leaked files may well have these names. A number of influential politicians and celebrities in Europe are in trouble for their dealings. The leaks have been cleaned and culled by news outlets like the Guardian. It could be only a matter of researching the files to get at Pakistani names and activities.