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Big bank struck back at WND for exposing dark deed

[Editor’s note: This anniversary story is part of the celebration of WND’s 20 years. To see WND highlights from every calendar date, click here].

Five years ago today, a series of investigative reports by WND senior staff writer Jerome Corsi that exposed the money-laundering scheme of global banking giant HSBC resulted in shocking fallout for the news agency and the reporter.

HSBC – which ultimately was assessed a record fine but not prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch despite evidence of money-laundering for terrorists and drug cartels – lodged a complaint on Feb. 13, 2012, that blocked Internet access to one of the WND stories.

Subsequently, the HSBC series prompted the New York City securities firm with which Corsi worked to fire him.

John Cruz in video interview with WND’s Jerome Corsi

Along with his well-known WND reporting and book-writing, Corsi was a senior managing director for Gilford Securities, a Manhattan investment firm that serves institutional and retail clients.

Corsi said the firm was responding to his series of reports on the charges of former HSBC manager John Cruz. The whistleblower provided WND with 1,000 pages of customer account records along with audio recordings that provided evidence of an international money-laundering scheme by HSBC.

“I was completely blindsided by the reaction of the firm to the HSBC stories,” Corsi said. “I thought Gilford would be proud that a member of the firm had sufficient courage to do the right thing – make public and report suspected money laundering activity when first hearing about or learning about credible allegations, regardless what firm the allegations involved.”

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When Lynch was nominated in 2015 by President Obama for attorney general, the Senate delayed her confirmation vote amid concern over her handling of HSBC, among other issues. She signed a “deferred prosecution agreement” in December 2012 in which the bank paid a $1.9 billion fine in return for the U.S. Department of Justice agreeing not to bring criminal charges.

Loretta Lynch is sworn in before testifying during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 28, 2015.

Lynch later admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as WND reported in March 2015, that her investigators in the probe of HSBC were aware of evidence compiled by Cruz but she chose, nevertheless, not to bring criminal charges.

Corsi’s troubles began, WND reported in 2012, when HSBC lodged a complaint that blocked Internet access to a story reporting the whistleblower’s charges. The WND story included redacted images of customer account statements that HSBC claimed was an illegal disclosure of personally identifiable information. However, no personal information was visible in the images.

Corsi said that Gilford management gave him the choice, instead of being fired, to drop his securities registration with the firm voluntarily and to become a “consultant.”

“I refused,” Corsi said, “saying I had done nothing wrong, but that I should be commended, not fired, for writing the HSBC stories.”

Read the backstory inside the HSBC scandal – how WND first exposed the massive money-laundering scheme and the fallout from the discovery.

WND CEO Joseph Farah said the “lesson that needs to be understood from the fallout WND and Jerry Corsi experienced as a result of breaking the story about a major bank’s involvement with money laundering is that real investigative reporting is costly to those who undertake it.”

“That’s why very few news agencies and very few reporters will go near such stories with a 10-foot pole,” Farah said.

Corsi pointed out that when the whistleblower Cruz brought him the information on HSBC, he had a responsibility to report it and to bring it to the attention of authorities, as specified by various federal laws, including the Patriot Act.

Farah, meanwhile, noted that no other news agencies picked up the HSBC story reported by WND.

“Yet, this is the kind of reporting that distinguished American journalism for the previous 200 years,” he said.

Corsi and WND reported the story “without any thought as to the personal consequences,” Farah added.

“We reported it because it was the right thing to do,” he explained. “Corsi reported what he discovered to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies because it was the ethical thing to do. As a result, WND has faced retaliation from the bank, and Corsi has apparently lost his position with a New York financial firm.

“In America today,” the WND chief concluded, “it seems, more and more, doing the right thing has consequences while doing the wrong thing doesn’t.”

See a WND interview with HSBC whistleblower John Cruz:

Funding jihadists, drug cartels

In the initial HSBC story, Feb. 1, 2012, Corsi obtained evidence that bank employees in Long Island were stealing the Social Security numbers of former depositors to create bogus “pass-through” accounts used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars for criminal enterprises such as Mexican drug cartels and Islamic terrorists.

One of the largest banks in the world, London-based HSBC has about 7,500 offices in more than 80 countries and territories in Europe, North and South America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa.

WND reported in February 2015 Cruz told Senate Judiciary Committee staff preparing for the Lynch confirmation hearings that he considered the $1.9 billion fine DOJ imposed on HSBC in 2012 in lieu of criminal prosecution “a joke.”

Cruz argued that a $1.9 billion fine of an international bank the size of HSBC amounted to no more than “a few days operating profit.” He described it as “a cost of doing business” once HSBC had decided to launder money for international criminals.

Lynch later admitted HSBC was not complying with the deferred prosecution agreement she signed for the Justice Department, apparently confirming whistleblower suspicions that the bank was continuing to launder money for Mexican drug cartels and international terrorist organizations.

“I’m confident HSBC never quit money-laundering despite the Department of Justice settlement in December 2012,” Cruz told WND in February 2015.

He said he found out from some of his friends at the bank that some of the employees who had been involved in the money laundering before he was fired were still there.

Here is WND’s history of coverage of the HSBC scandal: