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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Swiss Leaks
HSBC : Drug and Bank Lords

by Eric Toussaint, CADTM, 13/2/2015
Translation by Mike Krolikowski
The British bank HSBC, which recently employed 260, 000 people worldwide, is present in 75 countries, and claims to have 54 million customers |1| is another example of the “Too Big to Jail” phenomenon. |2| Over the last ten years, HSBC has laundered $881 million |3| for Mexican and Columbian drug cartels that are responsible for tens of thousands of firearm related assassinations. These relations continue in spite of dozens of warnings from different US government agencies including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The profits from this business are so important that not only does HSBC continue, but it has also opened specialised services in its Mexico offices where drug dealers may simply hand in stocks of cash for cleaning. |4| It has been revealed that HSBC was accused of failing to respect regulations, to prevent money laundering, on nearly $700 billion of transfers and over $9.4 billion in US currency purchases from HSBC Mexico. The bank also violated sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Burma, amongst others. Although HSBC is openly contemptuous towards the law, it has hardly been subjected to any legal consequences. In December 2012, HSBC was condemned to a fine of $1.9 billion – about one week of revenue – as the full and final penalty for its money laundering activities. Although aiding and abetting terrorist organisations, and drug trafficking, are punishable by five years in prison not one director or employee has been criminally prosecuted. Bank directors have a free hand to take part in drug trafficking, sanction violations, or any other crime.
kotrha, Slovakia

The International Herald Tribune (IHT) has inquired as to what was said behind the doors of the Justice department about this case. According to certain information, several prosecutors wanted HSBC to plead guilty and recognise that it had violated the law, which obliges banks to inform the authorities of any transaction of over $10,000 dollars that might be suspicious. This plea would have led to HSBC losing its United States banking licence and an end to its activities in that country. After several months of negotiation, it was eventually decided not to press criminal charges in order to avoid the Bank’s closure. It was even decided to avoid too much tarnishing of the Bank’s image. |5| This small fine of $1.9 billion was completed by a period of probation: should the authorities discover, between 2013 and 2018, that HSBC has not put an end to these practices (there has been no condemnation), the justice department may reopen the case. This result may be summed up as: “Naughty child! penance of one week’s pay and don’t do it again for five years.” this is clearly an example of a bank that is ‘Too Big to Jail’.
During a Senatorial Commission concerning HSBC in July 2013, Elizabeth Warren (D. Massachusetts) interrogated David Cohen, under-secretary at the Treasury responsible for actions against terrorism and financial espionage, appearing for the US Treasury. She made the following points: the United States government takes money laundering very seriously. It is possible to close a bank that engages in this activity. Those condemned can be definitively prohibited from conducting banking and financial activities and may be condemned to prison sentences. Now, in December 2012 HSBC admitted to laundering $881 million for Mexican and Columbian drug cartels, and the Bank also admitted to many sanctions violations over a long period. HSBC has paid a fine, but no individuals were sanctioned and the closing of the bank in the US has not been mentioned. She asked, ‘What does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords, and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution?’ The treasury representative dodged the issue saying the question was too complex to give an answer. |6| The Senator concluded that a cocaine dealer would go to prison and for a very long time if he repeats his fault whilst bankers who launder hundreds of millions of narcodollars can sleep easily in their own beds at night with no fear of being condemned. |7|

Stephen Green, CEO of HSBC (2003-2010) who became British Minister for Commerce (201-2013): an emblematic figure
Lord Green
Stephen Green is a vivid illustration of the symbiotic relationship between finance and government. In this case, it goes ever further, because he does not content himself with serving the interests of big capital as a banker and a minister. His ‘ministries’ go as far as being an ordained priest of the Church of England. He has written two books on the subject of business and ethics, notably Serving God, Serving Mammon? |8| The title refers to the biblical quotation, ‘No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).’ Mammon is symbolic of wealth, greed, and profit. This name comes up in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Phoenician. Mammon is sometimes compared to Satan. As for Stephen Green, he has received university honours and is obviously untouchable.
He started his career at the British Ministry of Overseas Development, before going to the private international consultancy company, McKinsey. In 1982, he was hired by HSBC the biggest British bank where he was rapidly promoted to positions of high responsibility. He was named Executive Director in 2003, and became HSBC chairman in 2006, where he remained until 2010.

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