The rest of the media are finally catching up to what WND has been reporting for years.
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The New York Times, Associated Press and others are in a sudden flurry over a report that implicates banking giant HSBC in laundering billions of dollars for celebrities, criminals and drug lords – and suggests Obama Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch may have struck a sweetheart deal with the banking giant that Rolling Stone now calls "preposterous even by Eric Holder's standards."
Documents leaked by a whistleblower to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists recently revealed HSBC bank employees had for years actively helped customers – including drug traffickers, arms dealers and wealthy power players around the world – conceal enormous amounts of money from the taxman.
Though the allegations were first exposed by WND in 2012 and prompted a federal investigation, Lynch, then the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, negotiated a settlement that allowed HSBC to pay a $1.9 billion fine rather than face criminal charges.
WND senior staff writer Jerome Corsi explains how WND first exposed HSBC's massive money laundering scheme, the fallout from the explosive discovery and the role Loretta Lynch played in the emerging Obama administration scandal:
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The new report, however, alleges crimes so massive even Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the leading Democrat on Senate banking committee, is demanding to know how Lynch could have let HSBC off the hook so lightly.
"I will be very interested to hear the government's full explanation of its actions – or lack thereof," said Brown. "I intend on pressing regulators, the IRS and the DOJ for answers."
"It looks now like the U.S. government knowingly bent over backward to make sure that a major Western tax evader kept its license to operate here in America," Rolling Stone commented. "Even worse, our next attorney general was the person responsible for negotiating the deal."
But back in 2012, WND was the first to report on the mega-bank's illegal activities with leaked documents and a whistleblower of its own, which in turn prompted the investigation in the first place.
In a report by WND senior staff writer Jerome Corsi dated Feb. 1, 2012, it was first revealed that John Cruz, a former employee of HSBC in New York, delivered to WND some 1,000 pages of customer account records he claimed were evidence of an international money-laundering scheme involving hundreds of billions of dollars by the global banking giant.
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Cruz, the former vice president and senior business relationships manager for HSBC on Long Island, had pulled the documents from the HSBC computer system before he was fired, allegedly for "poor performance," though Cruz contends he was let go because senior management didn't want to him to pursue his personal investigation into the bank's wrongdoing.
WND followed the exposé with a series of further investigative articles, including redacted HSBC documents revealing what tipped off Cruz to the money laundering and even evidence implicating financial giants Paypal and American Express in the HSBC scandal.
It was at that moment HSBC began to retaliate against WND for its reporting.
The bank filed a complaint Feb. 9, 2012, with a WND Internet service provider, EdgeCast Networks. Access to the article was blocked for a period of three hours, until the Internet provider concluded the complaint was unwarranted.
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At the time, WND Editor and CEO Joseph Farah remarked, "I've been in journalism for 30 years and in Internet journalism for 15 years. In all that time, I have never seen such a blatant and temporarily effective effort at raw censorship by a powerful institution – in this case, one of the world's largest banks."
But that was just the first blow.
The very day after WND reported HSBC's efforts to shut the story down, the investigative journalist who blew open the story, Jerome Corsi, was effectively fired from his position as a senior managing director at Gilford Securities, a Manhattan investment firm that serves institutional and retail clients.
Nonetheless, Corsi and WND continued the investigation, culminating in the May 2012 story, "Banking giant HSBC 'a criminal enterprise.'"
"When John Cruz delivered to WND account records demonstrating HSBC senior management was involved in a multi-billion-dollar money-laundering scam, I called various customers listed in the account records," Corsi recalled. "Customers were shocked to learn HSBC was using their identity information, including accurate Social Security numbers, to create bogus accounts through which millions in clearly laundered money was run, before the account was closed – all without any knowledge or approval of the customers involved.
"Several customers, alarmed that I had their Social Security numbers, had their attorneys call me," Corsi continued. "To prove WND was legitimately investigating the story, WND shared the customer records we had with the attorneys. The reaction of both customers and attorneys was shock. No customer had given permission."
Finally, on May 13, 2012, WND reported how government regulators and law-enforcement authorities sat on the evidence they had against HSBC until WND blew the whistle on it.
Eventually, HSBC could hide no longer, and the Department of Justice began an investigation. In December 2012, the London-based bank agreed to Lynch's settlement terms and paid what eventually totaled $1.256 billion in fines to the U.S. government to end the investigation and avoid the filing of criminal charges.
HSBC Group Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said at the time his company was "profoundly sorry" and, "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes."
For the moment, the scandal seemed resolved.
"I don't think there are more than a few dozen people in the world who realize what Jerry Corsi did with the HSBC story," Farah said in an interview. "He brought one of the largest banking institutions in the world to its knees with his reporting. If the New York Times did this, there would have been Pulitzer Prizes handed out. The reporter would have been the toast of the town, celebrated by his colleagues. Other journalists around the country and the world would have written about this amazing effort by a muckraking, courageous reporter who broke the scandal about massive money laundering that made the public's heads spin.
"What did Jerry and his news agency get?" Farah asked. "They got a major denial of service attack that shut down the website for hours. Only a threat of an immediate lawsuit got service back. And when HSBC was ultimately hit with the largest banking fine in history – $1.2 billion – not a single news source credited or mentioned WND's series of stories.
"Keep in mind, the whistleblower who came to WND was out of options," Farah explained. "He'd gone to news agencies all over the country as well as state and federal law enforcement authorities. Only WND looked at the data he had collected. Only Jerry Corsi stood up to this powerful institution and took them on. And only when that data was published did federal regulators even give the whistleblower the time of day. This is what journalism is supposed to be about – being a watchdog on government and other powerful institutions."
It now appears, however, that the watchdog may be needed again.
The scandal returns
In a telephone interview with WND, Cruz said the Obama administration "is continuing to cover up its role in the HSBC money laundering scandal."
"The U.S. government never responded to the evidence I provided of money-laundering activity that I fully documented with records copied directly from HSBC accounts," Cruz explained to WND after learning court papers were filed objecting to the Justice Department stonewalling a FOIA request for the release of documents that could implicate Lynch in covering up Obama administration involvement in international money-laundering of Mexican cartel drug money.
Lynch has never explained why the New York U.S. Attorney's Office in 2012 chose to ignore the 1,000 pages of customer account records Cruz pulled from the HSBC computer system.
"The official response of the IRS Whistleblower Office doesn't say there was no fraud or tax evasion committed by HSBC in the money-laundering case," Cruz explained. "The IRS simply says, 'In this case, the information you provided did not result in the collection of any proceeds.'"
"I've never heard back from the two Department of Homeland Securities investigators that did the telephone interviews with me on Feb. 7, 2012, even though both said they would 'get back to me,'" Cruz said. "The New York District Attorney that I originally approached has never followed up with me, even after admitting, 'This is money laundering.'"
Cruz provided WND with documentation showing he had contacted Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Schelleppe and Investigator Patrick Mulcahey of the Suffolk County District Attorney's office in 2012.
When Cruz attempted to hand his information over to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., then the chairman of the Senate Permanent Investigating Committee looking into HSBC money-laundering activities, he was told to fill out a form, which he did, only to receive no response whatsoever.
"WND is the first and only news agency to put my story on the air, to put my story on the Web, to get my story out to people," Cruz explained, after providing WND with the letters he had sent to the Wall Street Journal in 2012.
A close reading of the 330-page report Levin's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued on July 17, 2012, titled, "U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History," places the blame not on HSBC employees in New York, but upon carelessness in acquiring suspect subsidiary banks in Mexico tied to Mexican drug cartels.
On Page 3 of that report, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations attributed the HSBC money-laundering criminal activities to a "weak AML [Anti-Money Laundering] program," carefully avoiding any allegations that specific HSBC employees in the U.S. or Mexico were criminally liable for their involvement.
By the end of 2012, HSBC escaped with a fine, but no criminal charges against any of its employees.
"The HSBC fraud investigator at the bank told me the bank had $2 billion set aside to pay the fines," Cruz recalls, "and conveniently HSBC got away with paying something like $1.9 billion in total fines and penalties."
The recent report on HSBC's activities, however, is putting new pressure on Lynch to explain how the bank could have escaped investigation without criminal charges.
WND's history of coverage on the HSBC scandal, including an exclusive interview with whistleblower John Cruz, can be seen below:
- Banking giant accused of laundering billions
- Look who has stolen IDs, faked tax returns
- Paypal, American Express implicated in bank fraud
- See big-bank money-laundering evidence
- Big bank retaliates against WND for exposé
- Investment firm fires WND reporter for exposing scandal
- HSBC goal: End money-laundering suit – with money
- Massive fraud ignored, until this happened
- Another fraud charge against global banking giant
- HSBC says $700 billion set aside for fines
- IRS probing claims of HSBC whistleblower
- Banking giant HSBC 'a criminal enterprise'
- Whistleblower: HSBC $1.9 billion fine 'a joke'
- Whistleblower sues bank giant for $10 million
- Calls from 3 continents to criminally prosecute HSBC
- WND names 'Whistleblower of the Year'
- Holder admits some banks 'too big to jail'
- Whistleblower: AG nominee in $1 billion Obama cover-up
- Now bank decides IF you can have your money
- AG nominee eyed in massive Obama cover-up
- Senator probes Obama's Launder-gate 'cover-up'
- Not so fast! Brakes slammed on Obama's AG nominee
- 'Launder-gate' settlement seen as sellout
- Loretta Lynch never contacted HSBC whistleblower
- HSBC whistleblower spills Lynch evidence to Senate