Private Eye on the Spooks Covering Up Scandals at HSBC

This past week we’ve had the revelation that HSBC were helping their customers avoid tax, and that the corruption included a number of influential MPs. One was Labour; six were Tories, including the Tory donor, Lord Fink. This isn’t the first time the bank was mired in scandal over corruption. A few years ago it was being investigated for money laundering, and murky dealings with the Iranians.

The Americans wanted to prosecute, but according to Private Eye, the Foreign Office and the Treasury stepped in to block the declassification of certain pieces of evidence under the Freedom of Information Act. in their issue for 4th – 17th October 2013 the ran the story HSBC and the Spooks. This went

Official efforts to protect Britain’s rampantly money-laundering banks from the wrath of US regulators and prosecutors extended as far as the security services, the Eye has learnt in a series of Freedom of Information Requests.

Back in May campaigners in the US obtained emails from the US Treasury showing that chancellor George Osborne had written to his counterpart Tim Geithner on behalf of Standard Chartered. But at far greater risk of losing its licence was HSBC, with money laundering at the core of US operations that were, for example, taking drugs cash from Mexico without checking its provenance and doctoring paperwork to hide Iranian business (all under the leadership of former HSBC boss and soon to retire trade minister the Reverend Lord (Stephen) Green).

So how did HSBC keep its US licence and escape a potentially terminal criminal prosecution there? With help from friends in high places, it seems.

The Eye asked the Treasury and the Foreign Office for their correspondence with the US authorities. After long delays both admitted they did have such material but refused to disclose it, citing harm to international relations, damage to the economy and threats to commercial interests.

On planet Treasury, where the last five years haven’t happened, disclosure might, er, “damage banks (sic) business reputation and possibly the confidence of their customers”. The Foreign Office meanwhile feared that any information “might prejudice the commercial interests of HSBC” – the public interest favouring those commercial interests over the public’s right to know anything about wholesale corruption in banks to which taxpayers have recently provided financial support.

More mysteriously, the Treasury tacked on to the end of its responses a reference to section 23 of the freedom of information act, an exemption for “information supplied by, or relating to , bodies dealing with security matters”. This shadowy provision allows officials not to confirm or deny they do hold such information but, since no other FoI requests mention it, it’s safe to assume there is such information. From the chancellor to the spooks, if a bank faces embarrassment or worse, the full might of Whitehall has to be secretly mobilised behind it.

Corruption and Conservative Complicity

Now that it’s been revealed that MPs, most of whom were members of the ruling party, were benefiting from the bank’s advice about tax avoidance, you’re also left wondering how many Tories and others were also involved with the HSBC’s other shady dealings. How many knew about the money laundering and the breaking of trade sanctions to Iran? In fact, how many were actively involved in these activities?

And these ain’t victimless crimes, by any stretch of the imagination. Quite apart from the misery caused by drug addiction in Britain, America and Europe, the Mexican and South American drug cartels are brutal and ruthless. In Guatemala or one of the Central American states, they shot up an ordinary bus full of people just to make a point about their ruthlessness to the government.

In Mexico, the war on drugs has become a true civil war between the authorities and powerful drug gangs. And they are vile. Feminist and Human Rights organisations have talked about the ‘feminicide’ in the poorer communities in Mexico, where the gangs kidnap, rape, torture and murder young women, simply for the fun of it. It’s sickening to even think that someone’s making money from dealing with these butchers.

HSBC: Britain’s Iran-Contra?

The fact that the British government also tried to shut down US investigations into the bank’s dealing with the South American drugs trade and Iran also raises the spectre of another scandal that hit the CIA in the 1980s. This was the Iran-Contra affair, where Ollie North’s friends did deals to allow South American drug lords to import cocaine into the US, in return for their backing in the war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. At the same time the Company was selling arms to Iran in return for their help in negotiating the release of American prisoners in Lebanon.

When that scandal hit, the effect on the poor black population of the Land of the Free was potentially explosive. One of the areas where the drugs were being dumped was downtown LA. Drugs are a major blight of Black America, to the point where some Black radicals believe that they’re being used as part of a deliberate, planned genocide by the American state against its Black citizens. When the news broke that America’s spooks really were importing drugs in America, the same drugs that were ravaging Black communities, there was a mass meeting by Black Angelenos that nearly flared into a riot.

Although the story has never been refuted, the guy who broke it has effectively had his career ruined through pressure from the authorities and the news corporations.

Now it looks like Britain and our spooks were doing exactly the same. Remember, Maggie set up secret companies to deal with Iraq, while Major’s government was deeply implicated in the affair of the Iraqi ‘supergun’. It really wouldn’t surprise me if we had also followed suit in also supplying arms to the Iranians in order to gain some kind of political leverage in the Middle East. And the Libertarians in Thatcher’s party, like Norris McWhirter, also had absolutely no qualms about dining with South American dictators and death squad leaders.

This piece from two years ago now adds an extra, very suspicious dimension to a very murky business.

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5 Responses to “Private Eye on the Spooks Covering Up Scandals at HSBC”

  1. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. concernedkev Says:

    Just as “Spooks” are at present allegedly implicated in covering up serious Child Sex Abuse in the last 4 decades or more, it would not come as a great surprise they were, are covering for VIPs in Tax and other scandals. The more DIRT the more LEVERAGE.
    Nothing like having Very Obedient Servants.
    Could Dodgy Dave and Gormless George be VOSs.

    • beastrabban Says:

      My guess is that Dodgy Dave and Gormless George aren’t VOSs, but at the very heart of the operation, given that they’re extremely establishment. But I could be wrong.

  3. Jeffery Davies Says:

    Funny old world so to speak the banks lose monies through fraudulent means by their banksters but the poor get to put this money back so the rich get back whot they lost funny old world when those ninty nine percent who aint rich cant see this fact austerity wasnt for those one percent jeff3

  4. A6er Says:

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

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