HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who was recently accused of keeping millions of pounds in a Swiss bank account, was sued by the Hong Kong government last year for failing to pay rates for his Mid-Levels luxury apartment, Ming Pao Daily reported Monday.
The suit, filed by the Rating and Valuation Department with the Small Claims Tribunal in September last year, showed that Gulliver and his wife Henricks Amanda Faythe owed rates worth a total of HK$38,045.8 (US$4,906) between July 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014 plus administration fees and interests.
Rates are a form of indirect tax that the Hong Kong government levies on real estate.
Court records show that the couple did not attend the hearing on the case in November, and the court ruled that they were required to repay the amount they owed, including a HK$160 litigation fee, the report said.
In reply to the newspaper’s queries about the case, a public relations practitioner hired by Gulliver said the property concerned had been leased out and the rates were the tenant’s responsibility.
A copy of the bank receipt provided by Gulliver’s representative shows the tenant had paid more than HK$80,000 in January to settle the rates due the property.
The Gullivers were not aware they were behind in the payment of rates as notices had been sent directly to the address of the property where they were not staying, the newspaper quoted the representative as saying.
The rooftop apartment on MacDonnell Road jointly owned by the couple has a usable area of about 1,700 square feet and offers a view of the HSBC headquarters in Central.
According to Ming Pao, the couple probably paid less than HK$20 million for the property, which is now estimated to be worth HK$80 million.
A lawyer contacted by the newspaper said a property owner is obliged to pay rates and cannot be exempt from legal responsibilities, even if the tenant has agreed to pay them.
The government has the right to sell a property if the rates are not paid in full, the report said.
Gulliver has been accused of parking about 5 million pounds (US$7.7 million) in a Swiss bank account through a Panama-registered company while tax-domiciled in Hong Kong. His bank’s Swiss private banking arm has been accused of helping wealthy clients evade tax.
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