On the heels of the announcement today by U.S. authorities that HSBC has agreed to pay a fine of $1.92 billion for money laundering and violating international sanctions, a former executive who provided WND with 1,000 pages of evidence has sued the global banking giant for $10 million for “retaliation and wrongful termination.”
John Cruz, the former vice president and senior business relationships manager for HSBC on Long Island, N.Y., charges the bank attempted to silence him and ultimately fired him for reporting suspected fraudulent accounts were being used for money laundering.
Cruz told WND earlier today the federal government’s decision to settle with HSBC instead of pursuing criminal charges is “a joke,” alleging the amount of money the bank has laundered internationally amounts to trillions of dollars.
“This bank is organized crime,” said Cruz. “I can’t see how our government is even thinking about settling when they have tape recordings of employees involved in this.”
Instead of indictments, U.S. prosecutors used deferred prosecutions in which criminal charges are set aside in exchange for an agreement to pay fines and change behavior.
The complaint describes Cruz’s discovery in 2009 of numerous fraudulent accounts belonging to companies with non-existent addresses. One individual didn’t know an account was maintained in her name, Cruz claims.
The suit was filed in the Eastern District of New York by Grosso and Associates in Washington, D.C., and Nicholas J. Damado in Huntington, N.Y.
Cruz said he hopes it will lead to criminal prosecutions.
“The government states it has had no evidence to prosecute executives,” Cruz told WND. “But I have tape recordings of the employees talking about all the fraud they’re doing.”
He explained that along with internal bank documents, he gave federal law enforcement authorities recordings of lower management stating their superiors were instructing them to cover up fraud.
The recordings, Cruz said, also provide evidence his bosses sought to terminate him “because I found fraud, and they needed to cover it up, and they needed to get rid of me.”
Cruz said the federal government, for its part, is “afraid to shut down a bank that is ‘too big to fail.’”
“What is too big to fail?” he asked. “If you are too big to fail, then you’re too big to be open.”
HSBC, he said, should be divided up so some sections can be shut down.
As WND reported, after Cruz gave his evidence to authorities in 2009, he was not contacted until the allegations were first exposed by WND earlier this year.
Cruz met with special agents with the IRS criminal division in April and handed over a computer disc with copies of his internal documents. The agents, according to Cruz, were overwhelmed with the volume and detail of the information, calling it “mind-boggling.”
He said he doesn’t know the degree to which his evidence played a role in the investigations but believes it was a factor in the size of the fine.
“When I was first terminated, they were talking $800 million to $1 billion,” he said “I don’t think the fine would be anywhere near what it is right now if I had done nothing.”
There was also fallout for WND for its reporting of Cruz’s evidence. In February, HSBC lodged a complaint that blocked Internet access to one of the WND stories, and senior staff writer Jerome Corsi was fired by the New York City investment firm he had worked with for two years as a senior managing director, Gilford Securities.
A Senate report released in July presented evidence HSBC abetted massive money laundering by Iran, terrorist organizations, drug cartels and organized criminals throughout the world. The report said HSBC transferred $19 billion for Iran and $7 billion in physical cash for Mexico.
Documents filed in federal court today charged HSBC with violating sanctions laws by doing business with Iran, Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba.
In June, WND reported evidence Eric Holder’s Justice Department has not investigated money-laundering charges in deference to bank clients of his Washington-based law firm, where Holder was a partner prior to joining the Obama administration.
WND reported in October HSBC was engaged in a systematic scheme to defraud citizens of India who live abroad out of billion of dollars in investment accounts, according to an Indian source who provided evidence.
HSBC said in a statement today that it has taken steps to limit business in “countries that pose a high financial crime risk” and also expects to finalize an agreement with the U.K. Financial Services Authority.
Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC Group, said in the statement that the bank has accepted responsibility for “our past mistakes” and is a “fundamentally different organization.”
“We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again,” he said.