Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


That’s what Lin Homer, head of HM Revenues and Customs (the UK tax authority) said in 2012 about agreements not to prosecute wealthy Britons who had been concealing their money in Swiss bank accounts, and so also protect them from having their identities publicly revealed, in exchange for them kindly consenting to pay the taxes that they were legally obliged to pay. We wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone! And then I recall this woman (a mother with two children) who was sentenced to prison for five months for receiving an item of clothing from a friend who had stolen it.* As Bob Dylan sang, “Steal a little and they throw you in jail/Steal a lot and they make you king.”

Shocked by the criminal activity at HSBC in Geneva, which was revealed to the French tax authorities by an enterprising tech support guy, the Swiss police have been unusually active in seeking to ensure that such lawlessness is stopped — by seeking to extradite and prosecute the guy who revealed the information. Informed of HSBC’s crimes in 2010, the UK government sought ingeniously to decapitate the bank, by appointing its CEO Stephen Green to the House of Lords and making him Minister of State for Trade.

In order to further ensure that appropriate standards of legal and ethical behaviour were put into effect at HSBC, the head of tax at HMRC, Dave Hartnett, started working for HSBC as a consultant two years later.

* This sentence was later overturned on appeal. But she certainly wasn’t allowed anonymity, and no one said “The important thing is to get the trousers back”.

Comments on: "“The important thing is to get the money in”" (2)

  1. How Lin Homer became head of HMRC after failing so miserably at UKBA was bizarre. Dave Hartnett is another blundering mandarin whose performance was so poor it became an embarrassment. One of the worst decision the last Labour govt made was merge Inland Revenue with Customs & Excise into HMRC. Add to that the Treasury sold HMRC’s estate to Mapleys, an offshore company based in the Cayman Island of all places.

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