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HSBC loses appeal in French tax fraud investigation -sources

PARIS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - London-based bank HSBC has lost its appeal against the launch of a formal investigation in France into allegations it helped customers dodge tax, two sources told Reuters on Monday.

The bank was put under formal investigation last year on suspicions that the parent did not exercise sufficient controls on the activities of its Swiss private bank in 2006 and 2007.

"The court has decided to reject HSBC's requests," one of the sources said.

In France a formal investigation often, but not automatically, leads to a trial.

HSBC has admitted failings in controls at the Swiss private bank, but denied knowledge of wrongdoing.

"We are disappointed with the outcome of this procedural appeal. We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously," the bank said in an emailed statement.

Magistrates had previously estimated the Swiss arm's alleged fraud at around 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion.)

($1 = 0.9189 euros) (Reporting by Gérard Bon, Matthieu Protard; Writing by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Andrew Callus and David Evans)