Drug traffickers among HSBC’s best customers


The British Ministry of Finance and Customs (HMR) has opened an investigation into accounts at HSBC whose owners are British citizens on the island of Jersey, known for its low taxes.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph, the investigation was launched after an anonymous tip that gave details of UK customers with accounts in the island and abroad.

Members of the list of 4388 people include famous people who keep some 699 million pounds out of the country and billions of pounds in investment plans.

The newspaper said the list of people in Jersey includes Daniel Bayes, a famous drug dealer and ex-con who is currently in Venezuela, and Michael Lee, who has been declared guilty of illegal possession of hundreds of weapons. There are also three bankers who in the past were prosecuted for massive fraud.

The bank has the legal obligation to report when in doubt about the origin of the funds deposited in the accounts. The London company increased to $ 1,500 million provision sanctions that it may have to pay the U.S. for money laundering.

Jersey, the largest island of the Channel of La Mancha, is a parliamentary democracy with its own financial, legal and independent judiciary. Its tax haven status increasingly irritated the British, affected by the recession and a significant deficit.

It is not the first time authorities find that HSBC bank and others like Wells Fargo and Wachovia help transfer millions and in some cases billions of dollars across the world even though the origin of such large amounts of money are unknown. Back in May, the Vancouver Sun reported on how HSBC allowed the laundering of large amounts of cash through accounts that belonged to some of its wealthiest customers. In its report, the Sun related how documents and e-mails showed that HSBC not only didn’t inquire about the origin of the funds, but also worked hard to conceal the transfer of the cash from clients of Iranian, Lebanese, Brazilian and Cuban origin. Most suspicious transactions are done through the HSBC’s New York and Miami offices.

Bloomberg also reported on how HSBC, Wachovia, Bank of America laundered billions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels. In that case, smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the U.S.: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp., Bloomberg Markets magazine reported in its August 2010 issue. Wachovia bank alone laundered $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history.

Much of the drug trafficking money laundered by international banks is said to end in places such as the stock market to which many attribute the fact that the global economy did not completely collapse in 2008. A big chunk of drug money goes to finance intelligence operations for the CIA and the rest goes to buy large portions of land and resources around the planet.

In the case of HSBC, money laundering actions are part of a “disguised scheme that moves trillions of dollars between banks each day. Under this system, banks in the United States are used to move massive amounts of illicit funds,” said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, head of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, while providing her testimony in a congressional hearing last February.

According to the report on the Vancouver Sun, banks such as HSBC understaffs its anti-money laundering compliance division and hires incompetent personnel to watch over the transactions that are normally kept under the radar. “HSBC failed to review thousands of internal anti-money laundering alerts and generate legally required suspicious activity reports, or SARs, on transactions picked up by the bank’s internal monitoring system.” Suspicious activity is sent to law enforcement to be studied and watched over. Back in May of 2010, HSBC had a stockpile of almost 50,000 reports of suspicious activity which had not been passed on to authorities.

Perhaps the most amazing detail shown in the documents related to the ongoing investigation against HSBC is that “management intentionally decided” not to look into some cases of suspicious activity. “There appear to be instances where Bank employees are misrepresenting data” which is sent to senior managers. In other cases managers simply changed risk ratings for some transactions so that they would not set off the fraud alarms.

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