Local Current Blog

Investigation reveals Swiss bank accounts belonging to David Bowie, Tina Turner, and more

A view of the exhibit "David Bowie Is" in Chicago. Photo by Evan Hanover for MPR.

A massive international investigation has revealed the existence of approximately 30,000 private accounts with the famously secretive Swiss institution HSBC Private Bank. The purpose of the investigation was to expose international crooks and cheaters who are hiding money from various authorities, but among the names of account holders are musicians and other celebrities—including David Bowie, Tina Turner, and Phil Collins.

Bowie and Turner are actually both Swiss citizens, as Billboard notes: Bowie since 1976 and Turner since the 1990s, having renounced her U.S. citizenship in 2013. It’s a little more surprising to discover that San Antonian of the Year Phil Collins has seven Swiss accounts—or, at least, had them circa 2007, the most recent date covered by the leaked files—but his manager insists that the former Genesis frontman “continues to live and bank” in Switzerland.

The new report—the product of a cooperative effort by the BBC, The Guardian, Le Monde, and the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists—expands on earlier revelations based on documents leaked to the French government in 2010. Among the other celebrities listed as holders of (formerly) secret Swiss bank accounts are John Malkovich (whose rep says he has no knowledge of the account, which may be fraudulent), Elle MacPherson, and Christian Slater—who apparently did his banking as “Captain Kirk.”

The existence of the accounts, of course, is not illegal: precisely the point of the report is that these legal but extremely secret accounts may be used by unscrupulous individuals to shelter ill-gotten gains. HSBC says it has implemented procedures meant to prevent its vaults from being used to hide money from legitimate authorities, but many are still calling for increased transparency in the preferred country for supervillains—and, apparently, at least a few rock legends—to stash their cash.