© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The HSBC headquarters is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in east London

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – HSBC’s (L:) Swiss private banking arm, has agreed to pay nearly 300 million euros ($336 million) to settle a tax fraud case in Belgium, Belgian prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The prosecutors said in a statement that HSBC was “charged by a prosecutor in 2014 for serious and organized tax fraud, forgery and falsification of records, money-laundering and illegal use of financial intermediaries.”

They alleged that HSBC helped and encouraged tax fraud by creating off-shore companies in Panama and other tax heavens in the Caribbean for wealthy Belgian clients “with no other purpose but to hide money”.

A spokesman for HSBC declined to comment.

The prosecutors also said that the bank had made and committed to a significant overhaul of its practices to counter financial crime risks following the allegations.

The prosecutors said that under the settlement, which needs to be endorsed by Belgian judges, HSBC had agreed to pay 294.4 million euros to the Belgian state for losses in tax revenues caused by the alleged illegal activities carried out by the bank since 2013.

The prosecutors also said in the statement that they estimated that money transferred to these financial vehicles could amount to several billions of dollars.

More than a thousand Belgian taxpayers could have used the illegal schemes set up by HSBC, prosecutors said in the statement, which also said the bank was mostly serving clients active in the Antwerp diamond business.

In addition to the tax fraud, the prosecutors’ statement said part of the illegal transfers could have involved money laundering without providing further details.

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