Jill Treanor and Dominic Rushe, 11 December 2012
HSBC was guilty of a “blatant failure” to implement anti-money laundering controls and wilfully flouted US sanctions, American prosecutors said, as the bank was forced to pay a record $1.9bn (£1.2bn) to settle allegations it allowed terrorists to move money around the financial system.
Hours after the bank’s chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, said he was “profoundly sorry” for the failures, assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer told a press conference in New York that Mexican drug traffickers deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars each day in HSBC accounts. At least $881m in drug trafficking money was laundered throughout the bank’s accounts.
“HSBC is being held accountable for stunning failures of oversight – and worse,” said Breuer, “that led the bank to permit narcotics traffickers and others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries and to facilitate hundreds of millions more in transactions with sanctioned countries.”
In Mexico the bank “severely understaffed” its compliance department and failed to implement an anti-money laundering programme despite evidence of serious risks. A complex scheme known as the black market peso exchange (BMPE) was used to launder the cash.