Whistleblower: HSBC $1.9 billion fine ‘a joke’

By Art Moore

After a federal investigation assisted by a whistleblower who provided WND with 1,000 pages of evidence, British banking giant HSBC has agreed to pay more than $1.92 billion to U.S. authorities for violating anti-money laundering and sanctions laws.

It’s the largest penalty ever paid by a bank, but the whistleblower, a former HSBC vice president and relationship manager in New York, told WND today the federal government’s response is “a joke,” alleging the amount of money the bank has laundered internationally amounts to trillions of dollars.

“This bank is organized crime,” said John 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.

Cruz was terminated in 2010 by HSBC after he provided evidence, including bank documents, that the identities of clients were being used to launder funds.

“I gave them tape recordings of employees talking about all of the fraud they are doing,” Cruz said. “To cover it up, they needed to get rid of me.”

As WND reported, Cruz turned over his evidence to federal authorities in 2009 but 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 investigation 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 also was 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 reporter 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.

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