MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Lost in the news last week was a devastating report on the treachery of the international financial/banking community, in this case HSBC. In a report entitled "HSBC Exposed U.S. Financial System to Money Laundering, Drug, Terrorist Financing Risks," the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found HSBC had knowingly accepted deposits of billions of dollars in cash from drug money laundering, banks that consort with terrorists, and rogue nations.
The Huffington Post expressed it bluntly:
The report by a US Senate committee claimed that HSBC provided banking services to some lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh believed to have helped fund al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. It found billions of dollars of cash from its affiliate in Mexico to the US, despite warnings that such sums could involve drugs proceeds.
It also identified that some of the money was linked to Iran - leading to speculation the bank could have violated sanctions against the counter, saying HSBC was used by "drug kingpins and rogue nations...."
US officials believe drug cartels laundered money through the bank's US division between 2002 and 2009.
David Bagley, who headed "group compliance" for HSBC, was the sacrificial lamb who resigned while testifying at a senate subcommittee hearing on July 17.
But as Truthout pointed out in one of its installments on how the US actually benefits from the war on drugs devastating Latin America, money laundering is suspected of being a major source of cash income for banks based in the United States and Europe.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), who heads the subcommittee, noted that regulatory enforcement does little to discourage such behavior. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Levin said that wrongdoing in the financial world has been exacerbated by the relatively light touch of government regulators. 'As long as a bank just sees that it is going to be dealt with kid gloves, I think we are going to continue to see these shortfalls that have been so endemic,' Mr. Levin said."
In the Truthout on the Mexican Border installment, it was noted, "Indeed, more than one analyst has speculated that the billions of dollars in drug cash are vitally important to US banks because so many of their financial assets are tied up in non-fluid assets." More significantly, as BuzzFlash has recently stated, if the fines for non-compliance are less than the profit of engaging in the illegal activity, then banks (and other corporations that break the law) are hardly discouraged from engaging in profiteering that is harmful to the interests of the United States.
Can such corporate/financial betrayal of the national interest be stopped, given the apparent impunity of the one percent? As BuzzFlash has commented and as also affirmed in a recent Daily Beast essay:
For some advocates of heightened enforcement, prosecuting individuals is the only clear-cut solution.
"I think we're going to continue to see these types of gross violations of federal regulations intended to prevent money laundering until bank officials are held criminally accountable for their figures," said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor who as the Treasury Department's under secretary of enforcement from 2001 to 2003 had oversight of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network....
"There's no deterrent value in the system for compliance or noncompliance with the [law], because no one is held individually accountable for their failure," he said.
In other words, fines don't change behavior; prosecutions (and jail time) do.
Yes, but the Bush and Obama Departments of Justice have spent trillions of dollars on a war on terrorism and a war on drugs while letting US banks launder money for the same people that the nation is supposedly at war with.
Some dare call it treason.