The heads of HSBC have been grilled infront of a UK Treasury Committee over the bank's recent tax scandal that's rocked the finance world. As Katie Gregory reports the CEO apologised for the bank's failings, as protesters gathered outside to call for jail time for wealthy tax evaders.
Calling for no mercy... These protesters want tax dodgers to serve hard time. Sick of what they say is the British government handing out "get out of jail free" cards to wealthy bankers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALEX WILKS, CAMPAIGNER WITH AVAAZ (ONLINE PETITION ORGANISATION), SAYING: "It is like a game of Monopoly, I mean it is ridiculous that the more money you have the less likely you are to go to prison. It should be equal for everybody." They gathered outside parliament - as the bosses of HSBC faced the music inside... (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHAIR ANDREW TYRIE SAYING: "Forex manipulation, violation of international sanctions, weaknesses in money laundering controls, credit default swaps, you're under investigation by the U.S. department of justice and commodities futures trading commission for rigging gold, silver, platinum and paladium markets." And the list went on... (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHAIR ANDREW TYRIE SAYING: "Any of those wrong?" Despite all the misdemeneanors - the main topic for the committee was the bank's tax dodging controversy. Allegations that the Swiss arm of the bank had helped wealthy clients avoid paying millions of pounds worth of tax. HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver could only apologise. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HSBC CEO STUART GULLIVER, SAYING: "I'd like to put on the record an apology from both myself and from Douglas for the unacceptable events that took place at our private bank in Switzerland in the mid 2000's, which is clearly an apology we'd like to make to you all, to our customers, our shareholders, to the public at large. It clearly was unacceptable." Gulliver himself - even used a Swiss account. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HSBC CEO STUART GULLIVER, SAYING: "I have a collective responsibility for the operations of the group, I have been with the group for 35 years. I am responsible for cleaning it up." And they may not alone in the spring cleaning...Germany's Commerzbank is now also under investigation for suspected tax evasion. Prosecutors are investigating client accounts based in Luxembourg.