HSBC says French authorities open formal criminal probe of alleged fraud at its Swiss unit

HSBC says it is under formal criminal investigation in France over alleged tax fraud by its Swiss private bank.

The London-based bank says French authorities have imposed bail of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) while they investigate alleged wrongdoing in 2006-2007.

In a statement Thursday, HSBC said "the French magistrates' decision is without legal basis and the bail is unwarranted and excessive."

It said it would defend itself "vigorously" in any legal proceedings.

HSBC'S Swiss bank is under investigation in several countries after leaked documents suggested it hid millions of dollars as it helped wealthy people around the world dodge taxes.

A former HSBC employee, Herve Falciani, gave the data to French tax authorities in 2008. France shared it with other governments and launched investigations.