HSBC, one of the largest banks in the nation, and in fact the world, has been caught money laundering for drug cartels and a veritable murderer’s row of international criminals. Though the bank is clearly culpable for its actions, it is hardly the first of its kind.
Largest bank in Europe caught money laundering for cartels
HSBC Holdings, formerly the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, the largest bank in Europe and one of the largest global banks, has been found, according to Bloomberg, to have participated in a global money laundering scheme, in which the company did banking for some of the worst international criminal organizations on the planet.
The bank funneled cash from drug cartels in Mexico into accounts in the Cayman Islands and the U.S., and often in huge amounts; cash shipments to the United States from Mexican HSBC locations totaled more than $7 billion in 2007 and 2008 alone. The bank also handled transactions, prohibited by sanctions, for accounts based in Iran, Cuba, the Sudan and Burma and North Korea. Iran-affiliated transactions totaled more than $19.4 billion.
Banking for terrorists
HSBC was also found to have sent more than $1 billion in cash from 2006 to 2010 to Al Rahji Bank, a bank based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which has been reported as having possible ties to terrorist organizations. In 2005, the bank was found to be laundering money for transfer to Iran, Libya, Syria and the Sudan and in 2000, perhaps most egregiously, HSBC was also found to have made a transfer of $100,000 to accounts that transferred the money to the Taliban.
This is one of the largest banks in the world, second only in size to JPMorgan Chase, according to Forbes. HSBC is also not the only bank to have been caught money laundering. Wachovia, now part of Wells Fargo, according to the Guardian, was found to also have engaged in money laundering for Mexican drug cartels, which resulted in Wachovia having to pay more than $160 million in fines and surrendered monies in 2011, for years of money transfers to and from “casas de cambrios,” currency exchange businesses, a number of which are used as fronts for drug money laundering.
Banking industry shot through with it
It isn’t so much that the official policies of these organizations is to bank for criminals, but rather that the money involved seems to have induced them to look the other way. Still, though, name a major bank, and money laundering for drug cartels and other maleficent groups has been done through it. In the mid-1990s, according to PBS, employees of Citibank were caught laundering drug money.
Another bank involved in the Wachovia money laundering affair, according to Bloomberg, was Bank of America. Other banks caught transferring money to parties that U.S.-based businesses aren’t supposed to have anything to do with include ING, Barclay’s, ABN, Credit-Suisse, Lloyd’s and, according to Reuters, RBS Bank.