The world is full of ironies; some of them are subtle, but it is the obvious ironies which often pass without being noticed.
Yesterday the Swiss Police raided HSBC for suspected aggravated money laundering. The Swiss have for decades been a tax haven in which money laundering was the foundation of their banking and wealth management industries. Traditionally the Swiss authorities would only bother to investigate money laundering if Swiss citizens were laundering their money and evading their Swiss taxes.
But things change and what we lawful and normal in Switzerland some years ago is now unlawful and punishable. I have always found this a curious area of law; what was unlawful one day can become lawful the next day, and vice versa; the law changes according to principles which should be fundamentally immutable but more and more seem to be a selection of pick and mix laws, unbound by inconvenient principles.
Of course, the Swiss are not acting retrospectively. To do so would be quite wrong and would also shake the foundations of the Swiss financial industry to a state where it would be decimated.
In the United Kingdom HSBC is under a cloud for fiscal related activity. One thing is certain: no banker will serve a custodial sentence for any of the matters now under investigation, and the Swiss and British authorities at best may round up the usual suspects.