Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail

The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks’ profit – but they didn’t extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses.

People may have outrage fatigue about Wall Street, and more stories about billionaire greedheads getting away with more stealing often cease to amaze. But the HSBC case went miles beyond the usual paper-pushing, keypad-punching­ sort-of crime, committed by geeks in ties, normally associated­ with Wall Street. In this case, the bank literally got away with murder – well, aiding and abetting it, anyway.

For at least half a decade, the storied British colonial banking power helped to wash hundreds of millions of dollars for drug mobs, including Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, suspected in tens of thousands of murders just in the past 10 years – people so totally evil, jokes former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, that “they make the guys on Wall Street look good.” The bank also moved money for organizations linked to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, and for Russian gangsters; helped countries like Iran, the Sudan and North Korea evade sanctions; and, in between helping murderers and terrorists and rogue states, aided countless common tax cheats in hiding their cash.

“They violated every goddamn law in the book,” says Jack Blum, an attorney and former Senate investigator who headed a major bribery investigation against Lockheed in the 1970s that led to the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business.”

That nobody from the bank went to jail or paid a dollar in individual fines is nothing new in this era of financial crisis. What is different about this settlement is that the Justice Department, for the first time, admitted why it decided to go soft on this particular kind of criminal. It was worried that anything more than a wrist slap for HSBC might undermine the world economy. “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a press conference to announce the settlement, “HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

– Read the entire article at The Rolling Stone.

Comments

10 Comments

  1. Larry J B on

    “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a press conference to announce the settlement, “HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

    kind of like all the marijuana and another drug offenders that get caught up in the system have there lives destabilized (or ruined in most cases

  2. Larry J B on

    “Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer at a press conference to announce the settlement, “HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

    kind of like all the marijuana and another drug offenders that get caught up in the system have there lives destabilized (or ruined in most cases

  3. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    Why would the U.S. government punish the banks that whitewash the illegally gotten money the CIA and other covert U.S. government organizations and so-called assets get from illegal drugs smuggling?

    Banks just go through the motions with the courts for show, and as long as nobody is actually prosecuted the banks don’t spill the beans on anything they know about covert operations’ money to get a lighter sentence or make a plea bargain.

    It’s all show. We know they’re involved. Iran-Contra. Comments from Mexican State Governors along the border between Mexico and the U.S., as well as comments, gaffes, from other politicians and government operatives.

  4. gutrod on

    Not surprising. There are no mandatory sentences for white collar criminals in Canada while our government continues to persecute and bully the cannabis community. Canadians should demand change. The American government does not play by the rules, the same ones they preach. It is all about the dollar which makes you wonder, why aren’t they cashing in on medical m.j. and hemp. Will they would have to get permission from big business.

  5. Jodie on

    I’ve made the correction to that link in the story. Thank you for pointing it out.

  6. Paul Pot on

    Which all goes to prove that the good old USA is just a Narco-Nation.

  7. Anonymouse on

    I think in the UK they took all the profit HSBC incurred from money laundering, all of it. That sort of asset forfeiture seems relevant.

    It is interesting that US asset forfeiture laws are not applied to financial corporations as they do to private citizens. Asset forfeiture in America is abused by local, state and federal agencies. The agencies depend upon asset forfeiture in order to supplement their budget requirements and often lie and cheat in order to steal private property.

    Why didn’t the DEA take all of the assets of HSBC that were incurred from their criminal activity of aiding a drug cartel?