Argentina's tax agency has charged British bank HSBC with helping more than 4,000 Argentines to commit tax evasion by stashing money in secret Swiss accounts, officials said.
The Argentine tax authority (AFIP) said on Thursday it had searched HSBC offices in Buenos Aires before moving ahead with the charges.
"We have filed a charge for tax evasion and illicit association relating to bank accounts in Switzerland," said AFIP director Ricardo Echegaray.
He said three agencies associated with HSBC in Argentina were suspected of aiding the tax evasion scheme.
AFIP said it had identified 4,040 people who allegedly sent money to overseas accounts, and almost all of the transactions were supervised by HSBC representatives in Argentina, the United States and Switzerland.
HSBC said in a statement that it "emphatically rejects (the charges) of participation in any illicit association, including any organization allowing the transfer of capital in order to evade taxes."
The charges are the latest woes for the banking giant, after former employee Herve Falciani leaked to French authorities data on thousands of HSBC customers, saying he wanted to expose tax fraud.
The leak sent shockwaves through the world of Swiss banking, long valued by wealthy individuals for its stability and traditions of banking secrecy, and led to a French probe into HSBC to determine whether it had also helped French customers avoid taxes.