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Another week another banking scandal

Written By: - Date published: 9:33 am, February 12th, 2015 - 91 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, class war, tax - Tags: , , ,

One law for the rich, another for the poor.

If you’re a regular person with a regular job, governments will chase you to the ends of the earth for their taxes. In the case of our own Nats, up to and including paper boys/girls. But if you’re one of the super-rich, well, different rules apply. In the latest scandal:

The HSBC files: What we know so far

On Monday, the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde and 50 other media outlets reveal that HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities. The HSBC files consist of thousands of pages made available via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Covering the period 2005-07, they amount to the biggest banking leak in history, shedding light on some 30,000 accounts holding almost $120bn (£78bn) of assets. Many of the accounts belonged to prominent figures in business, film, music and sport, and the heads of royal families.

In particular:

HSBC’s Swiss private bank:

• Routinely allowed clients to withdraw bricks of cash, often in foreign currencies of little use in Switzerland.

• Aggressively marketed schemes likely to enable wealthy clients to avoid European taxes.

• Colluded with some clients to conceal undeclared “black” accounts from their domestic tax authorities.

• Provided accounts to international criminals, corrupt businessmen and other high-risk individuals.

The New Zealand connection:

IRD keeps mum on Swiss tax bills

New Zealanders who savoured the privacy of their Swiss HSBC bank accounts will continue to enjoy it from Inland Revenue, which won’t reveal whether information from leaked files lifted any locals’ tax bills.

IRD confirmed yesterday it had already investigated the information in the files, which were made public this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and showed HSBC helped wealthy customers around the world avoid taxes and hide millions of dollars.

[there are] 110 people or entities linked to this country that had Swiss HSBC accounts holding as much as US$152 million in total in 2006/2007.

The consortium [of journalists] said that legitimate uses for Swiss bank accounts exist and it did not intend to imply those in the files had “broken the law or otherwise acted improperly”.

Don’t expect the government to spend any time looking in to this.

91 comments on “Another week another banking scandal ”

  1. Chooky 1

    …this is really international very wealthy white collar crime…What is the Labour Party and Green Party and NZFirst policy on this?

    ie opening the IRD books ?….asking questions in Parliament?

  2. Ad 2

    I noted this one a couple of days ago. Well worth a proper discussion.

    This is how multimillionaires stay multimillionaires.

    They should pay their tax owed, or Shame on them all.

    • Colonial Rawshark 2.1

      They should pay their tax owed, or have their assets confiscated and face criminal prosecution.

      fify

      “shaming” these people gets you no where.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        +1

        You can only shame those with a conscience and those people are probably already paying their taxes. It’s the people without a conscience that mostly will try to avoid paying them.

      • Northsider 2.1.2

        replace
        “or” with “and”

      • Murray Rawshark 2.1.3

        “They should pay their tax owed, and have their assets confiscated and face criminal prosecution.”

        Fixed it for you, CR.

        • Richard McGrath 2.1.3.1

          Do readers see a difference between minimising tax obligations through the claiming of expenses, rearrangement of one’s tax status and other legitimate strategies, versus the wilful non-payment of the full amount of tax due?

          • Murray Rawshark 2.1.3.1.1

            Why are you asking me? No one reads what I write. Personally, given that a 1% government decides what’s legitimate, I don’t see a significant difference.

      • fisiani 2.1.4

        Shame on Unite Union,,tax dodgers

        • tricledrown 2.1.4.1

          Chaneling WO now trying to shift the blame lame.
          Its a pity you don’t mention dishonest John.

        • linda 2.1.4.2

          i note that china executes finical criminals and Iran hanged a billionaire and china’s president would like 400 thieves who stole government money returned to china to face the firing squad iam thinking there right there disease and the rope is the cure .

  3. KJS0net 3

    And the National supporters harp on about welfare abusers who cost the state 26 million. What about the tax dodgers, these wealthy con artists who are costing the state 1 to 6 billion per annum. National were quick to ‘fix’ the former, but where are they on the latter? They wouldn’t dare touch it. The real fraudsters here are their biggest meal ticket.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      National and their supporters are probably the biggest tax dodgers and so, no, they won’t fix this.

      Neither will Labour though as to fix it requires bringing in massive monetary controls again and that’s anathema to all main political parties.

      • Richard McGrath 3.1.1

        One of the biggest moves to address tax avoidance (if that is seen as a problem), and save the wasted energy of tax accountants and wealth redistribution bureaucrats, would be a flat low income tax rate equal to the corporate rate, with complete exemption for those on incomes below a fixed threshold (say $50k).

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1.1

          What a load of bollocks. A flat tax won’t change tax avoidance at all as the rich people will still be avoiding paying the taxes that they owe. Tax avoidance is enabled by the loopholes in the tax law and not progressive taxation.

        • Rolf 3.1.1.2

          A very good suggestion, and that is almost exactly what successful nations as Hong Kong or Singapore is doing, even China. In Hong Kong a family business can earn up to about NZD 50,000 tax free, and then pay 7% tax, and the social services are better than New Zealand, and still the state get so much money that they literally hand it back to people, tax free. There is no GST or other hidden taxes in Hong Kong

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1.2.1

            Citation needed.

            After all, there’s nothing to see in Hong Kong. Not even umbrellas. Nothing going on in Hong Kong involving umbrellas whatsoever. Umbrellas are against standing orders.

  4. Sabine 4

    but as I am always assured by those that know, it was the poor peoples poor spending habits and not living within their means that caused the debt problem.
    it has had nothing to do with rich, very rich, sickly rich and filthy rich people and business owners not paying their due.

    the rot is in and needs to be removed.

    • Richard McGrath 4.1

      @Sabine: “…rich, very rich, sickly rich and filthy rich people and business owners not paying their due.”

      A few questions to ponder:

      Exactly how much should a “rich” person pay in tax? Governments keep changing the top marginal tax rate. In my lifetime, it’s been as high as 66% and as low as 33%. The goalposts keep moving. Who is right?

      At different times a person in the top bracket of income paying 50% of it to the tax man would be either overpaying his tax or indulging in tax evasion. How can the same action be legal one minute, illegal the next, then legal again?

      Should a tax rate of 100% be imposed on incomes over a certain level?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1

        Yawn very much.

        Who cares how many questions you can concoct?

        Should post-natal abortion be an option for Objectivists?

        • Richard McGrath 4.1.1.1

          My questions were worded politely, motivated by a desire to understand readers’ viewpoints on taxation. Your snide answer speaks volumes about your willingness to engage in good-natured debate/discussion with someone whose views differ from yours. This is tribalism of the first order. Sad really, as I often find stimulating, well- written comments on this blog.

  5. Molly 5

    The paper boy/girl tax was particularly petty, and in line with changes that made their income part of the household income for anyone on benefits.

    That means any child whose parents were receiving a benefit who decided to go out and earn some money of their own, would often result in a direct reduction of income available for the household, as soon as that income went over the allowed limit.

    Not only petty, but incredibly spiteful and malicious.

    • freedom 5.1

      “You are left wondering, as you see the enormity of what has been going on, what it actually takes to bring a tax cheat to court,” Hodge told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “If it had been a benefit cheat it would have been up for court years ago.”
      http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/09/margaret-hodge-accuses-ex-chairman-lord-stephen-green-over-hsbc-files

    • Barfly 5.2

      wow…that is just….

    • Colonial Rawshark 5.3

      Note in comparison how the Left is too gutless to bring in taxes which put any kind of pressure on the 10% of upper middle class households. (Which their own MPs and partners live in).

      • Jones 5.3.1

        Isn’t that the difference between being in power and not being in power? It should give an indication of who is really calling the shots.

        • Colonial Rawshark 5.3.1.1

          Good observation. Even when the political Left is “in power” how much power is it really in. And even when the Right is “out of power” one notices that they still exercise plenty of power.

      • Richard McGrath 5.3.2

        It’s the MPs that bring in law changes, and they all love their perks and hate paying more tax.

    • Atiawa 5.4

      Isn’t it incredible how we have come full circle with child labour. The only difference nowadays is that instead of cleaning chimneys, school kids are working after school & Saturdays and Sundays at your local supermarket to support themselves or the household income.
      During the 60’s & 70’s we had after school jobs but invariably the money earned was used to purchase something for ourselves that we could otherwise not expect to have.
      I suppose the luck of being born a baby boomer continues.

  6. freedom 6

    Maybe a recent UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment can help answer some questions http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/feb/09/margaret-hodge-accuses-ex-chairman-lord-stephen-green-over-hsbc-files

    It does seem like he was in a position to know a few things about HSBC’s endeavours
    https://www.gov.uk/government/people/lord-green-of-hurstpierpoint 2011-2013

  7. Colonial Rawshark 7

    Two points:

    1) All the large investment banks are doing exactly the same as HSBC. HSBC got fingered because it is not one of the core US investment banks.

    2) HSBC helped launder billions in Mexican and Columbian drug cartel money. These bankers are corporate accessories to death and misery.

    Some additional detail from Zero Hedge:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-09/if-your-name-list-prepare-be-audited-or-worse

    • Jones 7.1

      I am sure we can expect to see more of this in the future. With the BNP Paribas fine last year and the MF Global heist by JP Morgan in 2011, I wonder if these are the small beginnings of a shakedown in the financial sector by the TBTF Wall St behemoths. I have no doubts they are angling for more banks (and nations) to fold so they can continue to asset-grab in their desperate pursuit of solvency.

      Closer to home, the sales of our power generators and now state houses are local example of these asset-grabs. The banks will be in there somewhere. Throw in the fact that John Key used to head the FX Committee for the NY Fed, he meets with Lloyd “Doing God’s Work” Blankfein of Goldman Sachs whenever he’s in NY, and Goldman Sachs have a legacy of seeding technocrats in Governments around the world. It should be pretty clear to all who John Key is still working for.

      They really are merchants of death and misery.

      • Colonial Rawshark 7.1.1

        Very well paid merchants too, which allows many of the participants to turn a blind eye to the role they are playing in the bigger picture.

        And you make a good point – just like the over-extended Roman Empire, these financial institutions will fall over if they don’t keep consuming, expropriating and expanding.

      • The Murphey 7.1.2

        Quite correct Jones the pray item is everything not currently under banker control

        The consolidation will continue and gather pace as the cannibalism exerts exponentially negative impacts on humanity and our life support system planet earth

        The power behind the world of finance is the epicentre for negative energy

        The question is ‘ when and how does it end ‘

      • thechangeling 7.1.3

        That’s pretty damning stuff. Just have to join the dots in a simple way and find a good clear medium to get the message across and maybe all New Zealanders will finally understand why Key is so very corrupt and has to go to purgatory for his sins for eternity.

  8. adam 8

    The difference between us and the Greeks – The Greeks, go out to the streets and break things. We however, cry into our cuppa.

  9. tricledrown 9

    CR a good percentage of the $100 billion Bill English had borrowed is this money.
    So we are accesaries to corrupt banking practices.
    These banks were up to all sorts of ponzi schemes,corrupt loan practices,libor,insider trading etc etc.
    Virtually none of the players have been charged with any offence.
    That is those in power are in their pockets very deep.
    Tories have recieved hundreds of thousands in campaign funds.
    Like wise Greek politicians no doubt NZ politicians are on the pay roll.
    Even after all their crimes money lost on the international Casino markets.
    These toewrags are still getting bailed out and disgustingly large bonuses.
    They are the Monetary Mafia running rackets of all kinds above the law.
    Having bought of the Politicians that count in all the Major countries.

    • Colonial Rawshark 9.1

      Agree. But both Left and Right in this country are wedded to the concept of using debt to supply money into the NZ economy.

  10. Wayne 10

    I am pretty sure the IRD will be fully across this one.

    • tricledrown 10.1

      The IRD has branches in taxhavens sure wayne.
      Don’t forget the bailout John Key recieved from the US govt for BofA ML shares more than US$5 million welfare for the rich conmen!!

    • The Murphey 10.2

      Q. What do you by that comment Wayne ?

      Ambiguity intended would be at short odds

    • Weepus beard 10.3

      Don’t think so. The IRD can’t tie their own shoelaces if the quality and reliability of their online service is anything to go by.

  11. Anne 11

    Don’t expect the government to spend any time looking in to this.

    Of course not. A few people generous with their donations to the National Govt. were (note I said ‘were’) likely on the list of suspects.

    • Jones 11.1

      At the most there will be fine in the 10’s of millions… something which I’m sure they will have already budgeted for. It is my understanding that JP Morgan budget’s for these fines into the 10’s of billions… easy to do when you have a direct line to the money printing presses.

  12. Jones 12

    Russell Brand’s take on the Trews…

    Who’s F*cking Us Over – HSBC Or Immigrants? Russell Brand The Trews (E253)

  13. Northsider 13

    John Key is in the same clique as the banking leaders who drives these activities. This is probably the next career he will pursue.

    Stephen Green was CEO and Chairman of HSBC Group, as well as the HSBC Swiss private bank, when all of this was happening. David Cameron then made him Minister of State for Trade and Investment from 2011 to 2013.

    John Key attended an APEC CEO Summit in 2009 at which Green was a speaker. In 2013 they met up at Asia House in London for a networking session.
    http://johnkey.co.nz/archives/1725-New-Zealand-and-the-Asia-experience-Speech-to-Asia-House,-London.html

    HSBC is in the frame because a staffer shared data with the French tax authorities. Many many other banks will be playing the exact same game.

  14. grumpystilskin 14

    Russell has hit the nail on the head (on the broadcasting front), I’ve been in the media (tv) for over 25 years and It’s a load of bollocks. NEVER trust a TV producer or what you see. In case you’re wondering, I don’t watch it anymore either as I prefer to read non fiction..

  15. Northsider 15

    A post a few days ago from Nadis in response to the query: are NZ banks engaged in similar behaviours.

    “Yes, but prob not via the banks. Lawyers trust funds are currently exempt from the new anti-money laundering regs. Go figure.
    NZ is one of the most sympathetic jurisdictions for trans national money laundering. Trusts domiciled in NZ but with the the settlors and beneficiaries offshore are not taxed or regulated in any serious way, shape or form. The large law firms around town make an absolute killing by facilitating the flow of offshore money through NZ trusts and into new homes.
    Here’s an example of how it works. Company incorporated in Malta, and ultimately owned by a trust in NZ buys a bankrupt tourist resort in Croatia or Greece – cash business right. The resort produces accounts and everything, pays staff, suppliers etc but it’s all bogus. Cash is banked in to the system, washed through the NZ trust – not taxes – and then disbursed to trust beneficiaries as fully legit NZ sourced income. Fully laundered. Source of money hidden forever by the NZ trust.”

    Open mike 09/02/2015

  16. DH 16

    One of the biggest tax scams is foreign ownership of NZ businesses. Foreign owners ‘lend’ the NZ companies capital, at fairly high rates of interest, from an office located in a tax haven. The NZ company makes bugger all profit & pays little tax, instead the owners make a healthy tax free income from the interest.

    An interesting tax scam was when the management of Transpower ‘sold’ the Sth Island National Grid to a US tax dodger. In the USA a 99 year lease is, legally, ownership whereas in NZ it’s still just a lease. Transpower leased it to the US tax evaders, who claimed tax rebates on the basis of ownership, while denying here that they’d sold it. The grid literally had two owners; one in the US and one here in NZ.

  17. Rolf 17

    Everyone should pay the same tax, the real problem is that they don’t. Governments all over the world are persecuting the most hard working and successful people for more money just because it is there and easy to grab. To hide your money it is no different from hiding from terrorists. The result is that most Kiwis either leave the country, 40% of the most skilled already gone I hear, and everyone knows that when a Kiwi reach the level of a “boat, bach and BMW” they don’t want to earn more buy working hard as everything goes in tax, so they move to speculation as real estate, which is tax free. Now the government is reaching for peoples Super and savings called the SS after a well known force of the past. The solution is to lower the taxes and make it worth working.

    • Draco T Bastard 17.1

      Generally speaking, the rich aren’t hard working and the poor are. In fact, the only way to get rich is to steal from the poor usually through interest and shareholding. The two biggest forms of bludging in the world. And once a person or family is rich they don’t have to work at all.

      A story that was in the news a couple of years ago was about a retired couple who won $8m on lotto. They were already reasonably well off – had their own house, car, and retirement income with no debt. Within two years that $8m had turned into $10m without them having to do a single days work. They said in the article that they just just couldn’t spend their income fast enough.

      • Rolf 17.1.1

        The ”rich” got there by hard work. It did not come through lottery gains. Most poor are 9 to 5, long vacation, and boosing the rest, too busy making a living to make some money. The “rich” started their lives working three shifts, one shift to make money enough to pay the bills, another to pay the tuition fees to get the third shift and education and get ahead in life. The poor joined the unions. The richest man in the world is said to Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA), he is dyslexic and started selling pencils door to door as a teenager. Poor Kiwi kids binge drink instead. The poor wants his hard earned money via taxes. Not quite always, but let it be a pointer to everyone.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 17.1.1.1

          I know you’ll reject this out of hand, and cling to your false beliefs like a cry-baby:

          Wealth is delivered by luck, not hard work.

          Now deny it and run along: boring delusions are boring and unoriginal.

          • Rolf 17.1.1.1.1

            Hard work has nothing to do with luck. Your comment made me think of one Chinese woman I know personally. She was born into the culture revolution, grew up separated from her family and parents, was critically injured as a child, but survived, she ate cabbage and potatoes for food, at 11 years of age she could not read or write, she ate rice for the first time, she worked three jobs for years, got a university degree, started several businesses, today she is a millionaire, own her own home and car, and have employees. That is the “lucky people” you want to tax so the lazy and laidbacks can have their beach vacation and weekly boosing.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 17.1.1.1.1.1

              If wealth is the product of hard work, then why aren’t nurses and coal miners all rich?

              Like I said, though: this is one of your deeply held beliefs: learning the facts will just make you cling to it harder. It isn’t easy to let go of a security blankie.

              PS: and please, Rolfie, drop the facile conceit that you have the first idea what I “want”.

            • Jones 17.1.1.1.1.2

              It has everything to with luck. I understand luck as being in the right place at the right time, though I believe that you can create your luck and some people have the talent, perhaps by being more aware and focussed than others, to read the world in a way that will bring them luck. But they are the few and they’re the examples you’re citing.

              For the majority of the “rich”… their wealth is inherited in some way, extracted from someone else (sometimes to that person’s detriment), or born into it. Regardless, they have access to more resources (knowledge, contacts, money, time) and access to more resources increases the probability of being lucky.

        • Draco T Bastard 17.1.1.2

          The “rich” started their lives working three shifts

          I’m sure that some of them did most of them though got rich through inheritance. In other words, a lottery.

          The richest man in the world is said to Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA), he is dyslexic and started selling pencils door to door as a teenager.

          So, what did he do to become rich because I can assure you it wasn’t selling pencils door to door. There’s only one way and that is to exploit as many people as possible. In other words, theft.

          • Rolf 17.1.1.2.1

            He was actually selling a pencil, that is the way he started. He continued selling all kinds of stuff as stationery, then later furniture, and gave thousands of people jobs. He still continued to live a frugal average middle class life, because he liked it that way. Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba, is another example. He is now 50, and just said that he will now devote the rest of his life to teaching others to be rich and lift their lives, and he seems true to his word.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 17.1.1.2.1.1

              Is he going to teach according to the evidence, or the self-serving anecdata?

              For every individual who got lucky there are thousands who didn’t. They all worked hard; let go of the fantasy.

    • Naturesong 17.2

      So this string of cliches, ignorance, conjecture and dogma passes for argument where you’re from Rolf?

      • Rolf 17.2.1

        Rather most personal experiences. But I do dislike tax bludgers who want to tax working people harder to pay for their Friday night boosup. .

        • One Anonymous Bloke 17.2.1.1

          Of course you do. After all, the high priest convinced you they exist, and you always follow the leader.

          • Rolf 17.2.1.1.1

            Follow the leader, as joining Key’s Club. No thanks.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 17.2.1.1.1.1

              Nope, I’m picking you follow a twisted Randian Friedmanist miscegenation, coupled with self-made man theology.

              We get you people around here all the time, with your ‘if we do this then that will happen’ wittering. You all lack that one special thing: a place on Earth where anything you claim ever came true.

    • Colonial Rawshark 17.3

      Rolf you’re day dreaming mate.

      The super wealthy capitalists have made off like bandits while working people are left with hard graft being paid fuck all, enough to cover their weekly cost of living if they are lucky.

      The truly evil taxation is private taxation – the corporate profits made by ticket clipping rentiers taken out of this country making all of us poorer.

      • Draco T Bastard 17.3.1

        The truly evil taxation is private taxation – the corporate profits made by ticket clipping rentiers taken out of this country making all of us poorer.

        QFT

        It is the rentiers that we need to get rid of as Piketty has proved (but has held back from actually saying so).

        • Rolf 17.3.1.1

          The corporates don’t pay any tax at all. For them tax is just another coast they add to the price, and we pay the price. If they don’t make a profit they increase the price, or close down and go elsewhere, leaving the unemployed behind. Best way is to reduce state tax and costs.

  18. tricledrown 18

    Rolf Rolf a barking mad right whinger.
    We have some of the lowest taxes in the OECD.
    Lower than Australia where most of our people move!
    Lower than the UK where the next cohort go!
    The reason why well educated gaduates and professionals leave is because of better pay better career advancement oportunity.
    Rolf your BS politics is what a party called ACT,currently they are polling at •5% less than the margin of error which puts you in the fundamentalist looney nut job terriTory.Research in psychology shows that those following extemist views such as you do are mentally ill.
    Rolf time to have a good evaluation of yourself and why your belief system is so selfish aloof and out of touch with the mainstream.

    • Murray Rawshark 18.1

      Saved me saying it. There is some truth to talented people leaving Aotearoa, but that’s usually because they want to be paid for doing something useful, rather than for being a speculator.

    • Rolf 18.2

      That is not true. We don’t have the predatory taxes that countries like Denmark or Sweden has, where a small business owner may pay 80% in tax, but include all that the state and local collects, hidden taxes, everything that is not called just “tax”, as “User Pay but No Say”, and New Zealand has a very high tax burden. Do your own homework before you shoot off your mouth.

  19. Neil 19

    I wonder if Key is one of the 110.

    • Chooky 19.1

      ….certainly worth thinking about …probably what everyone is wondering….this is why questions should be asked in the House …ie .reassurances and assurances …and what is the Nact Govt going to do about further investigations as in other countries?..

  20. BlueSky 20

    Tax should be on Assets and non-time related income eg interest, dividends, capital gains, rent.

    Time related income should be tax free. That is if you really want justice for the working class and reduce inequality.

    • Rolf 20.1

      The soviet communists tried that, and nobody wanted to work and earn any money to build assets. Try taxing lazy laid back beggars who don’t want to work instead.

  21. linda 21

    working people cant escape taxes no tax havens for us we pay the honest in society pay .right wingers say there is no free lunch on the war on the poor.
    well there the one getting the the free lunch and its about time it stopped i wonder how much tax the top 10 percent have stolen theft is theft they need the be treated as thieves.
    i guess we will not see much action from the John key government since its supporters that are the biggest crooks.

  22. Tom Gould 22

    Not that I know many seriously rich people, but I know a few, and they all say to me that once you get to a certain level of international wealth that “tax is optional” and pretty much always has been.

    • Rolf 22.1

      Probably some truth in that, people make money and they can only eat three meals a day and live in one house etc. so they invest the money to make more money, create more jobs and are able to pay better salaries, and when the make more money they invest that too so more people get a job and get paid, etc. Now, instead of handing the money over the politicians and bureaucrats as tax to be squandered, they make more jobs. Does New Zealand want these investment and jobs???? Stop fleecing the investors then, because then they go elsewhere and invest and create jobs.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 22.1.1

        Roll up, roll up, the tent is busting, here he comes, the one and only Mr. Gish.

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