HSBC – från opium till kokain – en bank som följer sina traditioner

Del 2 av 7 i serien Brottsliga och fifflande banker

En av världens största banker, HSBC (eller Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation) har enligt en US-amerikansk rapport till senaten ägnat sig åt penningtvätt för de mexikanska drogkartellerna och andra typer av kriminella och skattesmitare:

Many of HSBC’s breaches of US anti-money laundering relate to its use of bearer share accounts. Under the rules for these accounts, ownership of shares and the income they incur can be passed from person to person in secrecy.

HSBC’s US subsidiary HBUS had opened more than 2,550 accounts for bearer share corporations.

These businesses are commonly set up in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands.

Most of the bearer share accounts – some 1,670 – were opened at the Miami office of HBUS.

At their peak, these Miami accounts held $2.6bn of assets and generated annual revenues of $26m.

The report highlights the case of Miami Beach hotel developers, Mauricio Cohen Assor and Leon Cohen Levy.

The father and son used HBUS accounts opened under the names Blue Ocean Finance Ltd. and Whitebury Shipping Time-Sharing Ltd. to help hide $150m in assets and $49m of income.

The pair were jailed for 10 years for criminal tax fraud and filing false tax returns in 2010.

Det är inte heller första gången en US-amerikansk bank anklagas för att ägan sig åt penningtvätt. Wachovia Bank befanns skyldiga till sådan verksamhet år 2010 och betalade 160 miljoner dollar i böter och skadestånd.  Detta gjorde man frivilligt och för att undvika rättegång. Det finns säkerligen fler hundar begravna i den banken alltså.

HSBC har en mycket stor dotterbank i Mexico. Med 19 000 anställda i landet är banken en av de största. banken äger en mängd växlingskontor och bedriver affärer med dem. Växlingskontor är ofta en central ingrediens i penningtvätt, så också i Sverige där fifflaren Torgny Jönsson använt sig av metoden. Växlingskontoren och den typ av konton som nämns i ovanstående citat har alltås gjort HSBC till en bra bank att tvätta svarta pengar genom. I den US-amerikanska rapporten riktas omfattande kritik mot HSBC:s mexikanska bank HBMX. Bland annat att man inte har några fungerande kontroller för att förhindra penningtvätt. Man tar också specifikt uppvissa fall där banken misstänks ha tvättat svarta pengar för personer inblandade i drogverksamhet. En sådan person är exempelvis Ye Gon:

Mr. Ye Gon, a prominent businessman, was the owner of three Mexican corporations involved in the pharmaceutical field, Unimed Pharm Chem Mexico S.A. de C.V.; Constructora e Inmobiliaria Federal S.A. de C.V.; and Unimed Pharmaceutical, S.A. de C.V.271 He was accused of using his corporations to import, manufacture, and sell chemicals to drug cartels for use in manufacturing methamphetamine, an illegal drug sold in the United States.272 He was also accused of displaying “significant unexplained wealth,” despite reporting no gross income for his companies for the years 2005, 2006, and 2007.273 In June 2007, Mr. Ye Gon was indicted in Mexico on drug, firearm, and money laundering charges, but could not be located.274 In July 2007, he was arrested in the United States, imprisoned, and indicted by U.S. federal prosecutors for aiding and abetting the manufacture of methamphetamine.


Mr. Ye Gon and his corporations were longtime clients of HBMX as well as other banks and casas de cambio in Mexico. One news article reported that the Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) had determined that, from 2003 to 2006, Mr. Ye Gon and his companies moved $90 million through 450 transactions involving four major Mexican banks, HBMX, Banamex, BBV Bancomer, and Banco Mercantil Del Norte, and multiple currency 279 exchanges, including Casa De Cambio Puebla and Consultoria Internacional Casa De Cambio.

The March 2007 seizure of cash and weapons from Mr. Ye Gon’s residence triggered an intense review of his accounts by HBMX and HSBC Group.280 According to internal HBMX documents, the Unimed accounts were opened by Bital, retained by HBMX, and housed in HMBX’s Personal Financial Services (PFS) division, even though the official clients were corporations and should not have been serviced by the PFS division.281 The accounts were not designated as high risk, despite unusual transactions that had attracted bank attention several times from 2003 to 2007.282 John Root told the Subcommittee that during the 2003-2004 timeframe, the Unimed account had attracted the attention of HBMX regulators, and Susan Wright had instructed HBMX to terminate the relationship altogether.283 He said that the HSBC Group did not realize the account was still open, until he and Ms. Wright saw the press articles regarding Unimed in 2007.

När HSBC avslöjas med att tvätta pengar för illegal verksamhet, inklusive droghandel, så kan man säga att banken följer sina traditioner. För det var drogsmuggling och förtjänster från drogsmuggling som alde grunden för banken en gång i tiden. Grundaren av banken, Thomas Sutherland var först anställd i rederiet Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). Han ansvarade för deras verksamhet i Hong Kong och var också engagerad i flera andra företag i staden. Huvuddelen av företagets transporter i Asien handlade om opium som skeppades från Bengalen i Indien till Kina. Opium fortsatte vara en central inkomstkälla för olika brittiskägda företag i Hong Kong och så också för banken:

Another Scotsman, Thomas Sutherland, had joined P&O. He devoted his career to the company, worked on the construction of new wharves in Hong Kong and became the Hong Kong superintendent of P&O as well as the first chairman of Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock in 1863. Opium made up 70% of maritime freight from India to China, where it was sold to the Chinese by British compradores, despite all efforts by the Chinese authorities to stop it.

Sutherland understood that the time was right for a commercial bank. In 1865 he and a few others founded the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The board was chaired by Francis Chomley, and included the remarkable Thomas Dent, founder of Dent & Co. In 1839 a senior Chinese government official, Lin Zexu, known for his competence and moral standing, issued a warrant for Dent’s arrest in an attempt to close his warehouses, which infringed the Chinese ban on opium. That helped trigger the first opium war, which ended in August 1842 with the unequal treaty of Nanking.

After the second opium war (1856-60), the British and French imposed territorial concessions under foreign administration, the opening of Chinese ports to foreign trade and the legalisation of the opium trade. When Sutherland began the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the conflict had been over for five years. The Chinese characters in the transliteration of its name are auspicious, and can be understood to mean gathering wealth.

HSBC’s first wealth came from opium from India, and later Yunan in China. In 1920, bank subsidiaries were opened in Bangkok and Manila. When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, the bank refocused its activities in Hong Kong, but between 1980 and 1997 it set up in the US and Europe. It moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to London in 1993 prior to the 1997 transfer of sovereignty to China.

HSBC och dess ägare är inte heller de enda storföretag och kapitalister som grundat stora förmögenheter och makt med hjälp av illegal verksamhet och droghandel i Asien. Andra storföretag i dagens värld som gjort samma sak är exempelvis Jardine Matheson Holdings, Hutchison-Whampoa, Swire Group samt Wheelock & Co. Även en del svenska förmögenheter byggdes upp med hjälp av opiumsmuggling i Asienoch tesmuggling i Europa. Däribland Niclas Sahlgren (som ärvts av Silfverschiölds), familjen Grill, familjen Hahr, Grubb, Chalmers och många fler. Det handlar om de familjer som var engagerade i det Svenska Ostindiska Kompaniet.

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