Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:48 am Post subject: Fracking & Lord Green $7bn drug launderer Tory Minister
|Lord Green 'regrets' HSBC scandal but still refuses to answer questions
Trade minister breaks silence over money laundering scandal that took place while he was running the bank
Jill Treanor, City editor - The Guardian, Tuesday 24 July 2012 19.30 BST
Lord Green, former chief executive and chairman of HSBC and now the trade minister. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA
The trade minister, Lord Green, has broken his silence over the HSBC money laundering scandal, saying he regretted the long-running incident that took place while he was running the bank. But he is still refusing to take questions on the controversy.
Labour has repeatedly called on Green to answer questions on what he knew about US Senate findings that HSBC laundered money for Mexican drug barons and possibly even terrorists.
On Tuesday the bank's former chief executive and chairman conceded that he shared the "regret" expressed by the bank for the incident. The scandal is likely to result in a fine of at least $1bn (£650m).
But his refusal to turn up to the Lords – which is still sitting – did not satisfy Labour. The Opposition leader of the House of Lords, Lady Royall, called on Green to come to the house on Thursday to "dispel" the questions being posed about his ministerial role.
HSBC 'sorry' for aiding Mexican drugs lords, rogue states and terrorists
Executive quits in front of US Senate as bank faces massive fines for 'horrific' lapses that resulted in laundering money for drugs cartels and pariah states
Dominic Rushe in New York - The Guardian, Tuesday 17 July 2012 18.29 BST
US senators hear humiliating apologies from executives from HSBC, Europe's biggest bank Link to this video
Executives with Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, were subjected to a humiliating onslaught from US senators on Tuesday over revelations that staff at its global subsidiaries laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states.
Lawmakers hammered the British-based bank over the scandal, demanding to know how and why its affiliates had exposed it to the proceeds of drug trafficking and terrorist financing in a "pervasively polluted" culture that persisted for years.
A report compiled for the committee detailed how HSBC's subsidiaries transported billions of dollars of cash in armoured vehicles, cleared suspicious travellers' cheques worth billions, and allowed Mexican drug lords buy to planes with money laundered through Cayman Islands accounts.
Other subsidiaries moved money from Iran, Syria and other countries on US sanctions lists, and helped a Saudi bank linked to al-Qaida to shift money to the US.
David Bagley, HSBC's head of compliance since 2002, and who had worked with the bank for more than 20 years, resigned before the committee.
"Despite the best efforts and intentions of many dedicated professionals, HSBC has fallen short of our own expectations and the expectations of our regulators," he said.
The bank has been under investigation for nearly a decade, and faces a massive fine from the US justice department for lapses in its safeguards. Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn, who conducted the hearing, said the permanent subcommittee of investigations had examined 1.4m documents as part of its review and thanked the bank for its co-operation.
The bank has apologised for its lapses and said reforms had been put in place. Paul Thurston, chief executive of retail banking and wealth management, who was sent in to try and clear up HSBC's Mexican banking business in 2007, said he was "horrified" by what he found.
"I should add that the external environment in Mexico was as challenging as any I had ever experienced. Bank employees faced very real risks of being targeted for bribery, extortion, and kidnapping – in fact, multiple kidnappings occurred throughout my tenure," he said.
The committee had released a damning report on Monday, which detailed a collapse in HSBC's compliance standards. The report showed executives at the bank has consistently warned of problems. At its Mexican subsidiary, one executive had warned the bank was "rubber-stamping unacceptable risks", according to one email gathered by the committee.
HSBC's Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank's US operations, and according to its own staff, much of that money was tied to drug traffickers. Before the bank executives testified, the committee heard from Leigh Winchell, assistant director for investigative programs at US immigration & customs enforcement. He said 47,000 people had lost their lives since 2006 as a result of Mexican drug traffickers.
The senators highlighted testimony from Leopoldo Barroso, a former HSBC anti money-laundering director, who told company officials in an exit interview that he was concerned about "allegations of 60% to 70% of laundered proceeds in Mexico" going through HSBC's affiliate.
"In hindsight," said Bagley, "I think we all sometimes allowed a focus on what was lawful and compliant rather than what should have been best practices."
Levin and Coburn directed particular ire at a Cayman Islands subsidiary set up by the Mexico division of HSBC. That bank handled 50,000 client accounts and $2.1bn in holdings, but had no staff or offices. Money from the Cayman Islands was used to buy planes for Mexican drug traffickers, said the senators. Bagley said those accounts were all now in the process of being closed.
"Forget hindsight," said Levin. "Is there any way that should have been allowed to happen?"
"No, senator," said Thurston.
Levin repeatedly said that HSBC must have been aware of the problems. "This is something that people knew was going on at the bank," he said.
Bagley and Thurston said that HSBC's compliance had been fragmented and that oversight had been poor. They said that had now been changed. The bank has now adopted a global compliance structure and doubled the amount of money it is spending on oversight.
"Criminals operate globally and if we are to combat them and stop them from accessing and abusing the financial system, we must look at issues from a global perspective. Institutions which operate internationally, like HSBC, will be targeted by these criminals, and our experience in Mexico vividly demonstrates that you are no stronger than your weakest link," said Thurston.
While much of the hearing focused on Mexico, the senators also slammed the bank for dealings in Iran, Syria, Cuba, and other countries on US sanctions lists. HSBC executives continued to so business with Al Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia, even after it emerged that its owners had links to organizations financing terrorism and that one of the bank's founders was an early financial benefactor of al-Qaida.
While Coburn was unsparing of his criticism of HSBC, he thanked the bank for its co-operation and said there were issues at other institutions including Citigroup, Wachovia and Western Union.
But the report comes at a highly sensitive moment for British banks in the US. Following Barclays fine in the Libor-interest rate scandal and the massive losses at JP Morgan Chase's London offices US politicians have become increasingly critical of the UK's financial services sector.
At a recent hearing into the JP Morgan losses, Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic representative from New York, said: "It seems to be that every big trading disaster happens in London."
|TonyGosling wrote: |
|Too Big To Jail: HSBC & Terrorist Finance
Black Dossier: HSBC & Terrorist Finance
July 30, 2012
By Tom Burghardt
It's tough being the world's second largest bank.
HSBC, the London-based British multinational banking and financial services giant operates in 85 countries with 7,200 offices worldwide with assets totaling more than $2.6 trillion (£4.06tn).
They're also caught-up in serial scandals: the Libor interest rate-fixing scam, serious charges of drug money laundering as well as suspicions that bank officers "palled around" with terrorist financiers.
Founded in 1865 when the British Crown seized Hong Kong as a colony in the aftermath of the First Opium War, British merchants (today we'd call them drug lords) needed a bank to handle the brisk trade in the illicit substance and launched the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company Limited. Rebranded "HSBC" in 1991, the bank expanded at breakneck speed in the heady days after The Wall fell.
While some might call them a success story, exemplars of financial wizardry in tough economic times, more appropriately perhaps, we might borrow a term from Mafia lore to describe their preeminent position in the capitalist pantheon of corrupt institutions: juiced.
'Sorry, now Go Away'
Today, the "War on Drugs" rivals the "War on Terror" for top spot on the global hypocrisy index.
Moral equivalencies abound. After all, when American secret state agencies manage drug flows or direct terrorist proxies to attack official enemies it's not quite the same as battling terror or crime.
Pounding home that point, a new report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused HSBC of exposing "the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls."
That 335-page report, "U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History," (large pdf file available here) was issued after a year-long Senate investigation zeroed-in on the bank's U.S. affiliate, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., better known as HBUS.
Drilling down, we learned that amongst the "services" offered by HSBC subsidiaries and correspondent banks were sweet deals with financial entities with terrorist ties; the transportation of billions of dollars in cash by plane and armored car through their London Banknotes division; the clearing of sequentially-numbered travelers checks through dodgy Cayman Islands accounts for Mexican drug lords and Russian mafiosi.
From richly-appointed suites at Canary Wharf, London, the bank's "smartest guys in the room" handed some of the most violent gangsters on earth the financial wherewithal to organize their respective industries: global crime.
A case in point. In 2008 alone the Senate revealed that the bank's Cayman Islands branch handled some 50,000 client accounts (all without benefit of offices or staff on Grand Cayman, mind you), yet still managed to ship some $7 billion (£10.9bn) in cash from Mexico into the U.S. Now that's creative accounting!
Playing fast and loose with U.S. banking rules, Subcommittee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said that by exploiting the bank's "poor AML controls, HBUS exposed the United States to Mexican drug money, suspicious travelers cheques, bearer share corporations, and rogue jurisdictions."
Describing a "compliance culture" that was "pervasively polluted for a long time," Levin said it "will take more than words for the bank to change course."
Yet weasel words and butt-covering were all that were proffered to the American people even before Senate hearings began. Bank spokesman Robert Sherman said in an emailed statement that HSBC "will acknowledge that, in the past, we have sometimes failed to meet the standards that regulators and customers expect. We will apologize, acknowledge these mistakes, answer for our actions and give our absolute commitment to fixing what went wrong."
Right on cue, chief compliance officer David Bagley dramatically fell on his sword during those hearings and resigned on camera. It was quite a performance even by Washington's tawdry standards.
Appearing contrite, Bagley told the panel: "Despite the best efforts and intentions of many dedicated professionals, HSBC has fallen short of our own expectations and the expectations of our regulators. ... I recommended to the group that now is the appropriate time for me and for the bank, for someone new to serve as the head of group compliance."
While there's no word yet just how big Bagley's golden parachute will be, it's a sure bet he won't spend a day in jail, nor for that matter will Lord Stephen Green, HSBC's former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Between 2003-2010, Green tilled the helm after serial stints directing The Bank of Bermuda Ltd., HSBC Mexico, SA, HSBC Private Banking Holdings (Suisse) SA and HSBC North American Holdings Inc.; units which feature prominently in the scandal. Sensing perhaps that the jig was up, last year he joined David Cameron's Conservative government as Minister of State for Trade and Investment.
Unlike Pappy Bush who claimed to be "out of the loop" during the Iran-Contra guns-for-drugs affair, Green was fully apprised of bank shenanigans and the Senate published emails which prove it.
Cheekily however, while underlings take the fall, Green told The Daily Telegraph, "I do not believe that I have a case to answer other than in the important sense that as chairman and chief executive I was responsible for what the company did. HSBC has expressed regret for the failures. I share that regret."
The Telegraph noted that Green has not considered resigning from Cameron's government, saying he was "very engaged" with his current plum post.
Ironically enough, the current Baron of Hurstpierpoint is an ordained priest in the Church of England and the author of an inspirational tome, Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World. And no, you can't make this stuff up!
The top spot is now occupied by Stuart Gulliver who, quicker than you can say "we're sorry," admonished employees to "do better" and expressed remorse over his firm's "unacceptable behavior." Never mind that before ascending the throne, Gulliver was director of HBUS, HSBC Latin American Holdings Ltd., and HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd., divisions that have raised more than an eyebrow or two amongst Subcommittee investigators.
Topping Bagley's Kabuki-lite performance with her own rendition of clown car camp, Irene Dorner, HBUS's President and CEO told the Senate: "We deeply regret and apologize for the fact that HSBC did not live up to the expectations of our regulators, our customers, our employees, and the general public. HSBC's compliance history, as examined today, is unacceptable. ... We've worked hard to foster a new culture that values and rewards effective compliance, and that starts at the top."
Bathos aside, it was a polite way of saying "let's move on" and get back to the business of lining our pockets; after all, it's what we do best.
'The past is never dead. It's not even past'
Years before hijackers slammed passenger planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killing nearly 3,000 people, secret state agencies began to exploit the fraternal links between Osama bin Laden's Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets, also known as al Qaeda, and prominent financial institutions.
In his 1999 book, Dollars for Terror, journalist Richard Labévière relates how a former CIA analyst explained: "The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia."
Was a new Cold War dawning?
No. In fact, it was the same Cold War. Only this time it was tricked-out in seductive finery by denizens of Western think-tanks and on-the-make NGOs. In the age of spin and endless news cycles, they'd hit upon a splendid formula to pour the "old" imperialist wine into new bottles: "humanitarian intervention" and a "responsibility to protect."
It was a brilliant script. In the blink of an eye our media-saavy masters could "enhance democracy" and "reform markets," magically transforming publicly-owned resources into privately-held assets controlled by banks! That terrorist proxies would serve as walk-ons and help drive the final nail into the coffin of national sovereignty wasn't considered proper conversation in polite company.
Labévière wondered whether "the new forms of terrorism actually embody the highest stage of capitalism?" They did, and "the straw men of the bin Laden Organization's subsidiaries [were] very well received by the business lawyers of Wall Street and the Bahamas, by the wealth managers of Geneva, Zurich and Lugano, and in the hushed salons of the City of London."
Not so curiously perhaps, "the privatization of violence and the privatization of the economy has become paradigmatic." In fact, "apart from any religious purpose," Labévière wrote, "the 'Jihad' is gaining ground as a profitable activity. It becomes liable to all the mafioso devolutions, and sinks into pure banditry. In many cases, Islamist ideology is used as a wonder worker to paper over banditry in all its forms."
Bin Laden as a Mafia capo di tutti capi? It certainly was a novel reading of geopolitical machinations!
More to the point, if an "army marches on its stomach," who then are the money men who put food in their bellies and kalashnikovs in their hands?
Bankrolled by Saudi and Gulf banks with a wink, a nod and logistical support from their old friends, the CIA and the Pentagon, today's Green condottieri once again are on the march, wrecking havoc and sowing chaos, with particular attention paid to states targeted as official enemies by the Global Godfather. Just ask the Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians.
While the Senate report may have disclosed that HSBC turned a blind eye to terrorist financing among it correspondent banks, the Riyadh-based Al Rajhi Bank for one, Saudi Arabia's largest privately-held financial institution, such arrangements hardly flourished in a vacuum.
With assets totaling $59 billion (£92.5bn), the Al Rajhi's are amongst the wealthiest families in the Kingdom. Investigators found that after 9/11 "evidence began to emerge that Al Rajhi Bank and some of its owners had links to organizations associated with financing terrorism, including that one of the bank's founders was an early financial benefactor of al Qaeda."
While the Al Rajhi family deny any role in financing terrorism, they have declined "to address specific allegations made in American intelligence and law-enforcement records, citing client confidentiality," The Wall Street Journal reported back in 2007.
Journalist Glenn R. Simpson averred that "a 2003 CIA report claims that a year after Sept. 11, with a spotlight on Islamic charities, Mr. Al Rajhi ordered Al Rajhi Bank's board 'to explore financial instruments that would allow the bank's charitable contributions to avoid official Saudi scrutiny'."
"A few weeks earlier," the Journal disclosed, the Agency said that "Mr. Al Rajhi 'transferred $1.1 billion to offshore accounts--using commodity swaps and two Lebanese banks--citing a concern that U.S. and Saudi authorities might freeze his assets.' The report was titled 'Al Rajhi Bank: Conduit for Extremist Finance'."
Although U.S. law enforcement and secret state agencies "acknowledge it is possible that extremists use the bank's far-flung branches and money-transfer services without bank officials' knowledge," the Journal noted that CIA analysts had concluded that "senior Al Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank."
It goes without saying that one should always approach CIA reports with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially in light of the Agency's well-documented history of employing cut-outs such as al Qaeda as terrorist cats' paws.
Such reports however, lay a trail of bread crumbs that policy makers can either act upon or more likely, ignore. That senior Bush and Obama administration officials did nothing with this information, never mind the regulatory agencies charged to enforce anti-money laundering laws, is testament to the corrupt, bipartisan nature of American policy as a whole.
It also beggars belief that Lord Green or the bank's compliance officers were unaware of CIA allegations or that Britain's own foreign intelligence arm, MI6, hadn't apprised top officials of the risks involved. In fact, as we'll see below, HSBC's own internal documents prove otherwise.
Osama's 'Golden Chain'
There were certainly plenty of red flags flying which should have alerted bank officials.
In March 2002, al Qaeda's list of financial benefactors surfaced when computers were seized in Sarajevo at the Bosnian headquarters of the Benevolence International Foundation, "a Saudi based nonprofit organization which was also designated a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department."
Osama bin Laden, who held a Bosnian passport issued by the breakaway government fronted by Western "liberal interventionist" darling Alija Izetbegović during NATO's dismemberment of socialist Yugoslavia, was a supporter of the Nazi SS Handschar Division during World War II. Bin Laden referred to this group of financial angels as his "Golden Chain."
Additional evidence also emerged in 2002 during Operation Green Quest, a Treasury Department effort to "disrupt terrorist financing in the United States."
In March of that year, law enforcement officials raided the Herndon, Virginia offices of the SAAR Foundation "an Al Rajhi-related entity." Indeed, the name "SAAR" was an acronym for the organization's founder, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, the controlling partner of the Al Rajhi Bank.
Subcommittee investigators commented that "one of the 20 handwritten names in the Golden Chain document identifying al Qaeda's early key financial benefactors is Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, one of Al Rajhi Bank's key founders and most senior officials."
An affidavit supporting the search warrants "detailed numerous connections between the targeted entities and Al Rajhi family members and related ventures. The affidavit stated that over 100 active and defunct nonprofit and business ventures in Virginia were part of what it described as the 'Safa Group,' which the United States had reasonable cause to believe was 'engaged in the money laundering tactic of 'layering' to hide from law enforcement authorities the trail of its support for terrorists."
Green Quest investigators were particularly keen on unraveling links between the SAAR Foundation and the Swiss Al Taqwa Bank, incorporated in the Bahamas in 1988 for "tax purposes."
Founded by Swiss Nazi sympathizer and convert to Islam, Albert Armand (Achmed) Huber, who professed admiration for both Adolph Hitler and Osama bin Laden, the bank was accused by U.S. officials in helping al Qaeda launder funds. Although the Treasury Department froze its assets in 2001, the investigation was shut down by the Bush administration before deeper linkages could be fully uncovered.
In 2011, a lawsuit was filed by insurance giant Lloyd's of London against Saudi Arabia which sought to recover pay outs to victims of the 9/11 attacks. The suit noted "that two individuals who were former executives at Bank al Taqwa, Ibrahim Hassabella and Samir Salah, were also associated with the SAAR Foundation."
At the time, The Independent reported that the legal claim suggested that defendants "'knowingly' provided resources, including funding, to al-Qa'ida in the years before the attack and encouraged anti-Western sentiment which increased support for the terror group."
According to court briefs, "Absent the sponsorship of al-Qa'ida's material sponsors and supporters, including the defendants named therein, al-Qa'ida would not have possessed the capacity to conceive, plan and execute the 11 September attacks. The success of al-Qa'ida's agenda, including the 11 September attacks themselves, has been made possible by the lavish sponsorship al-Qa'ida has received from its material sponsors and supporters over more than a decade leading up to 11 September 2001."
Senate investigators, citing Green Quest and Lloyd's case files, noted that "Mr. Hassabella was a former secretary of al Taqwa Bank and a shareholder of SAAR Foundation Inc. Mr. Saleh was a former director and treasurer of the Bahamas branch of al Taqwa Bank, and president of the Piedmont Trading Corporation which was part of the SAAR network. The U.S. Treasury Department has stated: 'The Al Taqwa group has long acted as financial advisers to al Qaeda, with offices in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and the Caribbean.' Regarding Akida Bank, the lawsuit complaint alleged that Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi was 'on the board of directors of Akida Bank in the Bahamas' and that 'Akida Bank was run by Youssef Nada, a noted terrorist financier'."
The report went on to state that "HSBC was fully aware of the suspicions that Al Rajhi Bank and its owners were associated with terrorist financing, describing many of the alleged links in the Al Rajhi Bank client profile."
As icing on the cake, a 2007 study published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) also found that "Saudi individuals and other financiers associated with the Golden Chain enabled bin Laden and Al Qaeda to replace lost financial assets and establish a base in Afghanistan following their abrupt departure from Sudan in 1996."
Assets I might add, that were used to bankroll the 9/11 attacks.
'Keen to maintain the relationships'
HSBC's dubious links to the Al Rajhi Bank didn't end with information discovered in the "Golden Chain" files; it fact, they were the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
After 9/11, the FBI reported that three of the hijackers, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari cashed thousands of dollars in travelers checks and received wire transfers from an unnamed individual drawn on accounts at the Al Rajhi Bank.
As researcher Kevin Fenton pointed out in Disconnecting the Dots, links among most of the hijackers were discovered through their banking transactions. "In this context," Fenton wrote, "it is worth noting that Global Objectives, a British banking compliance company, identified fifteen of the nineteen hijackers as high-risk individuals and established database profiles for them before the attacks. ... The list of high-risk people maintained by Global Objectives was available to dozens of banks," a list that presumably also included HSBC.
While there is no evidence that HSBC, or for that matter the Al Rajhi Bank, had prior knowledge of the 2001 atrocity, the gross indifference exhibited by these institutions through their violation of "know your client" (KYC) rules governing financial transactions reveal a callous disdain for elemental norms as they raced to inflate their balance sheets come hell or high water.
Privileged communications amongst senior staff revealed they were well aware of the issues and risks involved, yet did worse than nothing, they lobbied that HSBC continue their arrangements with the Al Rajhi Bank.
Suspicions were such that senior staff "classified Al Rajhi Bank as a 'Special Category of Client' (SCC), its highest risk designation." This was done, Senate investigators noted, because the Kingdom was considered a "high risk country" and due to the fact Al Rajhi's largest shareholder, Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi was considered "a Politically Exposed Person (PEP)."
Internal HSBC documents also revealed that in 2002, that is, after the 9/11 provocation, "the International Private Banking Department asked to transfer [several] accounts to HSBC's Institutional Banking Department in Delaware which had superior ability to monitor account activity."
In fact, transferring Al Rajhi accounts to the bank's Delaware division would have just the opposite effect and bank officials knew it.
As journalist Nicholas Shaxson noted in his exposé of offshore banking, Treasure Islands, "Delaware is the biggest state provider of offshore corporate secrecy." Shaxson pointed out that Delaware's Chancery Court has a "'business judgement rule' under which courts should not second-guess corporate managers," thereby "granting corporate bosses extraordinary freedoms from bothersome stockholders, judicial review, and even public opinion."
So much for any alleged "superior ability to monitor account activity"!
HBUS's Joseph Harpster wrote an email, stating: "The most recent concern arose when three wire transfers for small amounts ($50k, $3k and $1.5k) were transferred through the account for names that closely resembled names, not exact matches, of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. ... The profile of the main account reflects a doubling of wire transfer volume since 9/01, a large number of travelers checks but with relatively low value and some check/cash deposits. According to the account officer, traffic increased because they have chosen to send us more business due to their relationship with Saudi British Bank and the added strength of HBC versus Republic. ... Maintaining our business with this name is strongly supported by David Hodghinson of [Saudi British Bank] and Andre Dixon, Deputy Chairman of [HSBC Bank Middle East]. Niall Booker and Alba Khoury [of HBUS] also support."
Aside from adverse publicity, the "low value" of the transactions seemed not to have troubled Harpster or his associates in the least. After all, the total "cost" of murdering 3,000 human beings were certainly small compared to the price of a vacation home in the Hamptons or a new Maserati.
Anxious there might be increased scrutiny from regulators (no worries there!), Harpster's email was forwarded by Douglas Stolberg, the head of Commercial and Institutional Banking to Alexander Flockhart, then a senior executive in Retail and Commercial Banking at HBUS. Stolberg noted: "As we discussed previously, Compliance has raised some concerns regarding the ongoing maintenance of operating/clearing accounts for Al Rajhi group." He forwarded recommendations on how to handle the account: "Retain [International Private Banking] as the relationship manager domicile for continuity purposes, and as we understand there is interest in further developing private banking business with family members. ... Domicile the actual accounts with Delaware where HBUS's most robust account screening capabilities reside."
"Screening capabilities" which could be shielded from nosy regulators due to Delaware's strict bank secrecy laws.
Stolberg went on to state: "[T]his has become a fairly high profile situation. Compliance’s concerns relate to the possibility that Al Rajhi's account may have been used by terrorists. If true, this could potentially open HBUS up to public scrutiny and/or regulatory criticism. SABB [Saudi British Bank] are understandably keen to maintain the relationships. As this matter concerns primarily reputational and compliance risks, we felt it appropriate for SMC [Senior Management Committee] members to be briefed ... so that they may opine on the acceptability of the plan. Please advise how you would prefer us to proceed." (emphasis added)
According to Senate staff, "Mr. Harpster reported a week later that Mr. Flockhart had decided to transfer the accounts to HBUS in the Delaware office."
But HSBC weren't the only entities hoping to curry favor with the Kingdom. A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report went on to note that "certain performance targets set by the State Department had been dropped in 2009, such as the establishment of a Saudi Commission on Charities to oversee actions taken by Saudi charities abroad as well as certain regulations of cash couriers."
Although GAO "recommended that the United States reinstate the dropped performance targets to prevent the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia 'through mechanisms such as cash couriers, to terrorists and extremists outside Saudi Arabia,' the State Department's "most recent annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report contains no information about Saudi Arabia's anti-money laundering or terrorist financing efforts."
One reason why the State Department's report contains "no information" just might be the Obama administration's policy of supporting Saudi-backed Salafi terrorists soon to come online in Libya and Syria, financed through "Saudi charities abroad" or more directly through "cash couriers."
'You'd better be making lots of money!'
The Senate disclosed that HSBC "provided Al Rajhi Bank with a wide range of banking services, including wire transfers, foreign exchange, trade financing, and asset management services."
"In the United States," investigators learned that "a key service was supplying Al Rajhi Bank with large amounts of physical U.S. dollars, through the HBUS U.S. Banknotes Department."
"The physical delivery of U.S. dollars to Al Rajhi Bank was carried out primarily through the London branch of HBUS, often referred to internally as 'London Banknotes'."
Indeed, "HBUS records indicate that the London Banknotes office had been supplying U.S. dollars to Al Rajhi Bank for '25+ years.' In addition to the London branch, HBUS headquarters in New York opened a banknotes account for Al Rajhi Bank in January 2001. The U.S. dollars were physically delivered to Al Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia."
"On one occasion in 2008," Senate staff reported, the head of HSBC Global Banknotes Department told a colleague: 'In case you don't know, no other banknotes counterparty has received so much attention in the last 8 years than Alrajhi.' Despite, in the words of the KYC client profile, a 'multitude' of allegations, HSBC chose to provide Al Rajhi bank with banking services on a global basis."
Even though the Al Rajhi Bank "had not been indicted, designated a terrorist financier, or sanctioned," HSBC's Group Compliance section recommended that affiliates should sever their ties.
After that initial decision however, "HSBC affiliates disregarded the recommendation and continued to do business with the bank, while others terminated their relationships but protested HSBC's decision and urged HSBC to reverse it."
Complaints by lower level staff continued, disregarded by higher-ups, even though a U.S. indictment was issued in February 2005 for two individuals "accused among other matters, of cashing $130,000 in U.S. travelers cheques at Al Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia" and then smuggling the cash to CIA-backed terrorists in Chechnya.
Although internal bank documents showed that officials decided to cut their ties to the Saudi financial institution, they reversed themselves when pressure was brought to bear by Al Rajhi officials. Between 2006 and 2010, Al Rajhi received shipments totaling more than $1 billion in physical cash in the lucrative banknotes business from HSBC's U.S. affiliate according to investigators. Officials at the Saudi bank "had threatened to pull all of its business from HSBC if the U.S. banknotes business were not restored."
Senate staff reported that on January 4, 2005, "HBUS AML Compliance head Ms. Pesce sent an email to Daniel Jack, an HBUS AML Compliance Officer who often dealt with the London Banknotes office, instructing him to: '[p]lease communicate that Group Compliance will be recommending terminating the Al Rajhi relationship.' Mr. Jack inquired as to when that recommendation would be made. She responded: 'I expect to see an email from Susan Wright today. She tells me that HBME [HSBC Bank Middle East] does not agree with Compliance and will not be terminating the relationship from the Middle East, but she/David B[agley] recommend that in light of US scrutiny, climate, and interest by law enforcement, we in the US sever the relationship from here'."
At the time, Susan Wright was "the Chief Money Laundering Control Officer for the entire HSBC Group. She reported to David Bagley, head of the HSBC Group's overall Compliance Department."
Senate investigators noted that the "documents do not explain why HSBC Middle East disagreed with the decision or why it was allowed to continue its relationship with Al Rajhi Bank, when HSBC's Group Compliance had decided to sever the relationship between the bank and other HSBC affiliates due to terrorist financing concerns."
It soon became clear however, that "HSBC Group Compliance began to narrow its scope." Shortly thereafter a trader in the Banknotes department wrote, "for us is business as usual." Alan Ketley, HBUS AML Compliance Officer commented on the decision not to include Al Rajhi Trading in their earlier decision to sever all ties: "Looks like you're fine to continue dealing with Al Rajhi. You'd better be making lots of money!"
Meanwhile, "Al Rajhi Bank communicated the threat to 'pull any new business with HSBC' unless given a 'satisfactory explanation' why HSBC had stopped supplying it with U.S. dollars via its relationship managers," the Senate disclosed.
In short order, it was business as usual.
Despite continuing allegations of terrorist financing swirling around Al Rajhi Bank, HBUS "continued to supply, through its London branch, hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to Al Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia. In addition, at Al Rajhi Bank's request, HBUS expanded the relationship in January 2009, by authorizing its Hong Kong branch to supply Al Rajhi Bank with non-U.S. currencies, including the Thai bat, Indian rupee, and Hong Kong dollar." (emphasis added)
When concerns were raised internally once again, Christopher Lok, the head of HSBC's Global Banknotes Department in New York fired back: "This is an on-going debate that will never go away. My stance remains the same, i.e. until it[']s proved we cannot simply rely on the Wall Street Journal['s] reports and unconfirmed allegations and 'punish’ the client'."
Needless to say, Hong Kong's "arrangement" with Al Rajhi went forward.
Despite "troubling information" which should have led to HSBC's quick exit from the banknotes market, the Senate reported that "HBUS continued to supply U.S. dollars to the bank, and even expanded its business, until 2010, when HSBC decided, on a global basis, to exit the U.S. banknotes business."
• • •
In conclusion, one needn't be a "conspiracy buff" to posit a link from HSBC to Al Rajhi to "cash couriers" operating across the Middle East in support of a multitude of U.S.-Saudi-backed "regime change" gambits in play today; policies which "worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army."
As investigative journalist Ed Vulliamy pointed out in The Observer, the issues involved here are wider than drug money laundering or terrorist finance. "It is about where banks, law enforcement officers and the regulators--and politics and society generally--want to draw the line between the criminal and supposed 'legal' economies."
Commenting on the HSBC scandal, Robert Mazur, a former Customs Department deep-cover specialist and author of The Infiltrator, who penetrated Medellín cartel money laundering operations during the prosecution and collapse of BCCI in 1991, told The Observer that "the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom."
"The stark truth is," Vulliamy wrote, "the notion of any dichotomy between the global criminal economy and the 'legal' one is fantasy. Worse, it is a lie. They are seamless, mutually interdependent--one and the same."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Last edited by TonyGosling on Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:20 pm; edited 10 times in total
Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:19 pm Post subject:
|Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist
From North America to Europe, the 'national security' apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism
Climate and anti-fracking activists blocade site
Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energy companies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.
Activists tarred with the same brush
In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada's domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on 'national security' grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project's corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.
The Northern Gateway is an $8 billion project to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it can be shipped to global markets. According to the documents a Canadian federal agency, the National Energy Board, worked with CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate with Enbridge, TransCanada, and other energy corporations in gathering intelligence on anti-fracking activists - despite senior police privately admitting they "could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat."
Now it has emerged that former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl - the man appointed by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to head up the CSIS' civilian oversight panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) - has been lobbying for Enbridge since 2011.
But that's not all. According to CBC News, only one member of Strahl's spy watchdog committee "has no ties to either the current government or the oil industry." For instance, SIRC member Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge-subsidiary, Enbridge NB, while Yves Fortier, is a former board member of TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Counter-insurgency in the homeland
Investigative journalist Steve Horn reports that TransCanada has also worked closely with American law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in attempting to criminalise US citizens opposed to the pipeline. Files obtained under freedom of information last summer showed that in training documents for the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TransCanada suggested that non-violent Keystone XL protestors could be deterred using criminal and anti-terror statutes:
"... the language in some of the documents is so vague that it could also ensnare journalists, researchers and academics, as well."
According to the Earth Island Journal, official documents show that TransCanada "has established close ties with state and federal law enforcement agencies along the proposed pipeline route." But TransCanada is only one example of "the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business."
This has had a tangible impact. In March last year, US law enforcement officials had infiltrated and spied on environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance camp in Oklahoma, leading to the successful pre-emptive disruption of their protest action.
Just last December, other activists in Oklahoma faced terror charges for draping an anti-fracking banner in the lobby of the offices housing US oil and gas company, Devon Energy. The two protestors were charged with carrying out a "terrorism hoax" for using gold glitter on their banner, some of which happened to scatter to the floor of the building - depicted by a police spokesman as a potentially "dangerous or toxic" substance in the form of a "black powder," causing a panic.
But Suzanne Goldenberg reports a different account:
"After a few uneventful minutes, [the activists] Stephenson and Warner took down the banner and left the building – apologising to the janitor who came hurrying over with a broom. A few people, clutching coffee cups, wandered around in the lobby below, according to Stephenson. But she did not detect much of a response to the banner. There wasn't even that much mess, she said. The pair had used just four small tubes of glitter on their two banners."
The criminalisation of peaceful activism under the rubric of 'anti-terrorism' is an escalating trend linked directly to corporate co-optation of the national security apparatus. In one egregious example, thousands of pages of government records confirm how local US police departments, the FBI and the DHS monitored Occupy activists nationwide as part of public-private intelligence sharing with banks and corporations.
Anti-fracking activists in particular have come under increased FBI surveillance in recent years under an expanded definition of 'eco-terrorism', although the FBI concedes that eco-terrorism is on the decline. This is consistent with US defence planning documents over the last decade which increasingly highlight the danger of domestic "insurgencies" due to the potential collapse of public order under various environmental, energy or economic crises.
In the UK, Scotland Yard's National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (which started life as the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit and later became the National Domestic Extremism Unit), has had a long record of equating the spectre of "domestic extremism" with "single-issue protests, such as animal rights, anti-war, anti-globalisation and anti-GM crops." Apart from animal rights, these movements have been "overwhelmingly peaceful" points out George Monbiot.
This has not prevented the police unit from monitoring almost 9,000 Britons deemed to hold "radical political views," ranging from "anti-capitalists" to "anti-war demonstrators." Increasingly though, according to a Guardian investigation, the unit "is known to have focused its resources on spying on environmental campaigners, particularly those engaged in direct action and civil disobedience to protest against climate change."
Most recently, British police have gone so far as to conduct surveillance of Cambridge University students involved in social campaigns like anti-fracking, education, anti-fascism, and opposition to austerity, despite a lack of reason to suspect criminal activity.
This is no accident. Yesterday, senior Tory and ex-Cabinet minister Lord Deben, chairman of the UK government-sponsored Committee on Climate Change, characterised anyone suggesting that fracking is "devastatingly damaging" as a far-left "extremist," holding "nonsensical" views associated with "Trotskyite" dogma. In contrast, he described "moderate" environmentalists as situated safely in the legitimate spectrum of a "broad range of consensus" across "all political parties."
In other words, if you are disillusioned with the existing party political system and its approach to environmental issues, you are an extremist.
Deben's comments demonstrate the regressive mindset behind the British government's private collaboration with shale gas industry executives to "manage the British public's hostility to fracking," as revealed in official emails analysed by Damien Carrington.
The emails exposed the alarming extent to which government is "acting as an arm of the gas industry," compounding earlier revelations that Department of Energy and Climate Change employees involved in drafting UK energy policy have been seconded from UK gas corporations.
Public opinion is the enemy
The latest polling data shows that some 47% of Britons "would not be happy for a gas well site using fracking to open within 10 miles of their home," with just 14% saying they would be happy. By implication, the government views nearly half of the British public as potential extremists merely for being sceptical of shale gas.
This illustrates precisely why the trend-line of mass surveillance exemplified in the Snowden disclosures has escalated across the Western world. From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of "terrorism" and "extremism" are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation.
But then, what's new? Back in 1975, the Trilateral Commission - a network of some 300 American, European and Japanese elites drawn from business, banking, government, academia and media founded by Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockerfeller - published an influential study called The Crisis of Democracy.
The report concluded that the problems of governance "stem from an excess of democracy" which makes government "less powerful and more active" due to being "overloaded with participants and demands." This democratic excess at the time consisted of:
"... a marked upswing in other forms of citizen participation, in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and 'cause' organizations... [including] markedly higher levels of self-consciousness on the part of blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students, and women... [and] a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private... People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents."
The solution, therefore, is "to restore the prestige and authority of central government institutions," including "hegemonic power" in the world. This requires the government to somehow "reinforce tendencies towards political passivity" and to instill "a greater degree of moderation in democracy." This is because:
"... the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups... In itself, this marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic, but it has also been one of the factors which has enabled democracy to function effectively."
Today, such official sentiments live on in the form of covert psychological operations targeted against Western publics by the CIA, Pentagon and MI6, invariably designed to exaggerate threats to manipulate public opinion in favour of government policy.
As the global economy continues to suffocate itself, and as publics increasingly lose faith in prevailing institutions, the spectre of 'terror' is an increasingly convenient tool to attempt to restore authority by whipping populations into panic-induced subordination.
Evidently, however, what the nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power fears the most is simply an "excess of democracy": the unpalatable prospect of citizens rising up and taking power back.
Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung