[PARIS] A French prosecutor has requested that HSBC's Swiss private bank be sent to trial to answer charges over a suspected tax-dodging scheme for wealthy customers, a judicial source said on Friday.
The procedural step brings the Swiss unit one step closer to facing trial in France after an investigation led by local magistrates into an alleged fraud involving French tax payers ended last month.
Parent company HSBC, which faces a separate ongoing French investigation, was not immediately available for comment.
The bank now has one month to respond after which magistrates will have the final word on whether to hold a trial.
HSBC has admitted failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss bank and faces investigation by US authorities and an inquiry by British lawmakers after reports that it helped customers conceal millions of dollars of assets in a period up to 2007.
Cases against specific clients of the Swiss bank are already in progress in France.
Le Monde daily reported on Friday that HSBC refused a plea deal that would have avoided a trial. It said it would have had to pay a 1.4 billion euros (US$1.48 billion) fine as part of that deal. The French prosecutor's office for financial crimes refused comment.