Black Dossier: HSBC & Terrorist Finance
HSBC, the London-based British multinational banking and financial services giant operates in 85 countries with 7,200 offices worldwide with assets totaling more than $2.6 trillion (£4.06tn).
They’re also caught-up in serial scandals: the Libor interest rate-fixing scam, serious charges of drug money laundering as well as suspicions that bank officers "palled around" with terrorist financiers.
Founded in 1865 when the British Crown seized Hong Kong as a colony in the aftermath of the First Opium War, British merchants (today we’d call them drug lords) needed a bank to handle the brisk trade in the illicit substance and launched the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company Limited. Rebranded "HSBC" in 1991, the bank expanded at breakneck speed in the heady days after The Wall fell.
While some might call them a success story, exemplars of financial wizardry in tough economic times, more appropriately perhaps, we might borrow a term from Mafia lore to describe their preeminent position in the capitalist pantheon of corrupt institutions: juiced.
’Sorry, now Go Away’
Today, the "War on Drugs" rivals the "War on Terror" for top spot on the global hypocrisy index.
Moral equivalencies abound. After all, when American secret state agencies manage drug flows or direct terrorist proxies to attack official enemies it’s not quite the same as battling terror or crime.
Pounding home that point, a new report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused HSBC of exposing "the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls."
That 335-page report, "U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History," (large pdf file available here) was issued after a year-long Senate investigation zeroed-in on the bank’s U.S. affiliate, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., better known as HBUS.
Drilling down, we learned that amongst the "services" offered by HSBC subsidiaries and correspondent banks were sweet deals with financial entities with terrorist ties; the transportation of billions of dollars in cash by plane and armored car through their London Banknotes division; the clearing of sequentially-numbered travelers checks through dodgy Cayman Islands accounts for Mexican drug lords and Russian mafiosi.
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