The bank HSBC has been connected with illicit financial practices once again.
Remember when HSBC was found to have been helping thousands of wealthy clients to evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax?
How about the time Swiss authorities raided the offices of HSBC’s Geneva branch over allegations of money laundering? The bank was facing criminal investigations in the US, France, Belgium and Argentina over its failure to establish proper procedures to prevent money laundering by drug cartels and terrorists.
It was revealed later that the bank only escaped prosecution in the US after the UK’s then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, intervened.
Older readers may remember that HSBC used to be the Midland Bank before being taken over by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). As the Midland, it was known as “the listening bank”. It seems these days, it mostly listens to criminals.
And earlier this year it was alleged that the bank was covertly funding the Conservative Party. This was no surprise to those of us who knew that its chairman during the tax evasion scandal, Stephen Green, had quit to become a Tory peer. A non-executive director at the time, Rona Fairhead, went on to be appointed chair of the BBC before becoming a Tory peer herself, earlier this year.
Now Lord Hain has written to another Tory Chancellor – Philip Hammond this time – calling for an investigation into possible money-laundering by HSBC and another bank, Chartered Standard, in South Africa.
Considering the close link between the bank and the Tories, what do you think will happen?
UK financial regulators and the Serious Fraud Office are to review if banks HSBC and Standard Chartered are linked to a South Africa corruption scandal.
It comes after Lord Peter Hain said the banks may “inadvertently have been conduits” for laundered money.
The Labour peer told the House of Lords that up to £400m of illicit funds may have been moved by the banks.
His concerns relate to links between South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a wealthy business family, the Guptas.
The peer has written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond, telling him a whistle-blower had indicated the banks “maybe inadvertently have been conduits for the corrupt proceeds of money”.
Lord Hain told the BBC he named 27 people in the letter, in addition to companies, adding that any person or firm linked to alleged corruption in South Africa is “going to be badly contaminated”.
The Treasury has asked regulators, including the Financial Conduct Authority, and the SFO to look into the allegations.
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