Posts Tagged ‘HSBC’

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Ten biggest terror finance news stories of 2012

December 31, 2012
  1. Taliban funding remains intact despite international sanctions
    Reports in 2012 revealed that the Taliban’s funding remains intact, that none of the Taliban’s assets have been blocked by U.S. sanctions, that the Taliban retains its taxing authority over Afghans, and that the UN sanctions only 18 percent of the Taliban’s provincial shadow governors in Afghanistan.
  2. Islamic charities remain top terror financiers
    It’s questionable to even call this “news,” but understanding the role of Muslim charities in funding jihad, of which we saw multiple examples throughout 2012, is the Rosetta stone to bankrupting terrorism.  Instances of Muslim charities behaving badly cropped up, and in some cases have worsened, in both in the Middle East and in the West this year.In the Islamic world, the Saudi charitable foundation IIRO, whose branches in Indonesia and the Philippines were previously blacklisted by the U.S. for funding terrorism, is opening seven new branch offices.  In Bangladesh, the chief of the terrorist organization Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) revealed that Muslim Aid, WAMY, the Muslim World League, the Qatari Charitable Society, and the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, are among the primary donors to his jihad.  Read the rest of this entry ?
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HSBC’s mixed record on Sudan

September 14, 2012

Since 1997, the U.S. has maintained sanctions against Sudan, a state sponsor of terrorism.  The United Nations has imposed an arms embargo on Sudan’s Darfur region since 2004 and asset freezes of some Sudanese officials since 2005.  The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has limited U.S. dollar transactions in Sudan since 2005.

But those sanctions have not prevented HSBC from periodically making improper transactions in U.S. dollars in Sudan from 2005 to 2008.  The instances described do not sound like intentional efforts to undermine the international sanctions regime against Sudan, but the actions were nonetheless negligent.  From the U.S. Senate’s report on HSBC earlier this summer (with internal citations omitted):

A second set of OFAC sensitive transactions involved Sudan, a country which is also subject to a comprehensive sanction program in the United States.  Internal bank documents indicate that, from at least 2005 to 2008, HBUS processed a considerable volume of U.S. dollar transactions involving Sudan that, once the new GCL [group circular letter from HSBC’s Compliance Group] took effect, should have decreased. The reasons they continued include a wide range of factors, from inadequate bank staffing reviewing OFAC transactions, to deceptive wire transfer documentation, to ongoing actions by HSBC affiliates to send these potentially prohibited transactions through HBUS.

In August 2005, a month after HSBC Group issued the GCL policy barring HSBC affiliates from engaging in U.S. dollar transactions in violation of OFAC prohibitions, HSBC Group head of Global Institutional Banking, Mark Smith, circulated a managerial letter identifying correspondent relationships that would be affected.  The letter stated: “An overriding observation is that the revised policy will most significantly impact the Cuban and Sudan correspondent bank relationships.” It also observed: “For Sudan and Cuba, most of our business is conducted in USD and the discussions already initiated with the affected banks will dictate the extent of our ongoing relationships.” In September 2005, a senior HBEU payments official Rod Moxley completed an analysis of U.K. transactions over a 10-day period that were stopped by the WOLF filter and noted “a considerable number of USD denominated transactions” for Sudan.

A year after the GCL took effect, however, one affiliate attempted to clear a Sudan-related transaction through HBUS in violation of company policy. On December 6, 2006, HBUS blocked a $2.5 million payment originating from an HSBC branch in Johannesburg, because the payment details referenced the “Sudanese Petroleum Corporation.” Although the payment had also been stopped by the WOLF filter in HSBC Johannesburg, an employee there had approved its release and sent the transaction through their correspondent account at HBUS. An internal email from HSBC Johannesburg explained that the release of the funds was:

a genuine error in an attempt to push the day[‘]s work through before the cut-off time. I believe the loss of three staff in the department leaving only two permanent staff remaining is causing the[m] to work towards clearing their queues rather than slow down to read the warnings such as these. … Having said that I also feel it is a matter of training where seeing the word ‘Sudan’ alone should have been warning enough.

The email also noted that the transaction had been sent by Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, which was “aware that this payment may not go through as they have attempted to make this payment via their other correspondent banks and failed.”

In July 2007, HBUS discovered that another client, Arab Investment Company, had been sending “multiple Sudan-related payments” through its U.S. dollar account at HBUS, that other banks later blocked for specifying a Sudanese originator or beneficiary, “suggesting that HBUS has been processing cover payments for this client.” An email identified seven wire transfers over a one-year period, collectively involving more than $1.1 million, in which the documentation provided to HBUS made no reference to Sudan, preventing the transfers from being stopped by HBUS’ OFAC filter. The email noted that two of the wire transfers later blocked by other banks had resulted in letters from OFAC seeking an explanation for HBUS’ allowing the transfers to take place, and suggested closing the client account to prevent more such incidents.

On another occasion, HBUS identified five wire transfer payments between January and November 2007, totaling more than $94,000, that turned out to be intended for a Sudanese company, but had been processed as straight through payments at HBUS, because “there was no beneficiary address and no mention of ‘Sudan’.”

In still other cases, wire transfers clearly referencing Sudan were stopped by HBUS’ OFAC filter for further review, but then allowed by HBUS staff to proceed. An HBUS internal report on OFAC compliance noted, for example, two blocked wire transfers involving Sudan, one for over $44,000 and the other for over $29,000, blocked on November 5 and December 7, 2007, respectively, by HBUS’ OFAC filter, but subsequently “released due to human error.”

In August 2008, HBUS noted that it was then holding over $3.2 million in Sudan-related payments sent to the bank from other HSBC affiliates.

The bulk of the funds came from blocking a $2.5 million payment from HSBC Johannesburg destined for the Sudanese Petroleum Corporation, but three other Sudan-related payments from HSBC affiliates were also identified, a $300,000 payment sent by HSBC Hong Kong; a payment for more than $367,000 payment from HSBC Dubai, and a payment for more than $58,000 from British Arab Commercial Bank Ltd.

The email listing these blocked funds noted that a court order was seeking transfer of the funds to a federal court in the United States in connection with a lawsuit seeking compensation for the families of 17 U.S. sailors killed in a 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

In August 2010, in connection with an effort to exit correspondent relationships with 121 international banks that HBUS determined it could no longer support, HBUS CEO Irene Dorner sent an email noting references to 16 banks in Sudan. Ms. Dorner wrote:  “In Phase 2 there will be Trade names the exit for which may be more complicated but to give you a flavor of the problem we seem to have 16 correspondent banks in Sudan which cannot be right.”

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Revisiting the Golden Chain, 11 years later

September 11, 2012

At large:  Sulaiman Al-Rajhi

It was the 1990s.  Osama bin Laden was broke, busted, and disgusted.  Al Qaeda had spent its last dime, and Osama needed a bailout.  Sulaiman Al-Rajhi and 19 other millionaire and billionaire Muslims came to the rescue.  They constituted a “golden chain” of financial backers that would enable a second life for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan from which to stage the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The U.S. Senate presented the evidence against the Golden Chain once again this summer in its report about the misdeeds of the British bank HSBC.  HSBC maintained a relationship with Al-Rajhi Bank, of which Sulaiman Al-Rajhi was a founder, until 2005 despite the earlier discovery of the Golden Chain and Al-Rajhi Bank’s record of facilitating terrorist transactions.

Don’t take my word for it.  This comes from the Senate’s Jul. 17, 2012, report:

Al Qaeda List of Financial Benefactors. The al Qaeda list of financial benefactors came to light in March 2002, after a search of the Bosnian offices of the Benevolence International Foundation, a Saudi based nonprofit organization which was also designated a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department, led to seizure of a CD-ROM and computer hard drive with numerous al Qaeda documents.  One computer file contained scanned images of several hundred documents chronicling the formation of al Qaeda. One of the scanned documents contained a handwritten list of 20 individuals identified as key financial contributors to al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden apparently referred to that group of individuals as the “Golden Chain.” In a report prepared for Congress, the Congressional Research Service explained:

According to the Commission’s report, Saudi individuals and other financiers associated with the Golden Chain enabled bin Laden and Al Qaeda to replace lost financial assets and establish a base in Afghanistan following their abrupt departure from Sudan in 1996.

One of the 20 handwritten names in the Golden Chain document identifying al Qaeda’s early key financial benefactors is Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, one of Al Rajhi Bank’s key founders and most senior officials.

The Golden Chain document has been discussed in the 9-11 Commission’s report, in federal court filings, and civil lawsuits. Media reports as early as 2004 noted that the al Qaeda list included the Al Rajhi name. HSBC was clearly on notice about both the al Qaeda list and its inclusion of Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi.

What became of the Golden Chain?  As for Al-Rajhi, the most prominent individual listed, he remains at large with an estimated net worth of $6 billion, showing up on Forbes magazine cover stories and feature interviews in the Arab News.  By Al-Rajhi’s own admission, he’s working out a “meticulous scheme” for a mysterious charitable endowment to dispose of his assets.

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Ayatollah to the Revolutionary Guard: Charge it!

August 19, 2012

Money laundering expert Kenneth Rijock has been on fire lately about the alleged banking violations by HSBC, ING, and Standard Chartered.  Now he takes on MasterCard in a post entitled “Why are there 3 million MasterCard holders in Iran?”  Good question.  Rijock says he has reviewed a list of cardholders, and that the lists include senior Iranian leaders, which would indicate a significant loophole in the sanctions regime against Iran in addition to representing a major compliance failure on the part of the credit card company.

From Rijock’s blog on Aug. 2:

WHY ARE THERE 3m MASTERCARD HOLDERS IN IRAN ?

Whilst we are on the subject of banks like HSBC banking Iranians, in violation of international sanctions, we should also examine the role of American credit card issuers. I will cover the financial obscenity of vanilla [plain, unmarked] cards in a later article, but today it is time to expose the fact that major American credit card issuers, like MasterCard, are happy to do business with more than three million Iranian nationals.
Even the newest bank compliance officer knows that Politically Exposed Persons, or PEPs, from sanctioned countries like Iran, are off limits. So why are senior Iranian PEPs issued MasterCards ? I have seen some of the cardholder lists, and anyone with half a brain can determine, from both their occupations or professions, and email address categories, that a large number of the card-members appear to be PEPs, and in a country where many corporations are on the OFAC, EU, or UN sanctions lists, issuing them credit cards is compliance malpractise, plain and simple.

I am sure that MasterCard’s management (and lawyers) will respond that some obscure tax haven subsidiary, and not the USA parent, is involved, and that banks that process the cards are conveniently not from countries that subscribe to sanctions against Iran, are actually involved in the transactions, but know this: MasterCard’s American entities use proprietary software that shows each and every global transaction. They know damn well that their subsidiaries are dancing with the devil.

So, whilst the letter of the law is assuredly being followed, and there is no obvious OFAC violation under federal law, Iranian nationals apparently are free to use their MasterCards overseas. Who is charging the purchases of dual-purpose goods, that are thereafter used in Iran to advance the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Ballistic Missile programmes, I wonder.

It gets worse; If America attacks Iran, to destroy its illegal nuclear weapons programme, will some of the defensive systems employed by Iran to shoot down US warplanes have been obtained by Iranian purchasing officers, using their MasterCards ? This is where the pursuit of profit trumps patriotism; Some will call it Trading with the Enemy.

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Waist deep with Al Rajhi Bank: HSBC

July 25, 2012

Among other correspondent relationships that HSBC maintained with prominent sharia banks that fund terror, HSBC did business with Al Rajhi Bank as late as 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Senate.

Al Rajhi Bank, a Saudi-based sharia bank created by Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, has been implicated by several Western intelligence services for funding terrorist activities from Bosnia to Indonesia.  The bank has also resisted attempts by the 9/11 victims’ families to investigate the funding of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

From Jihad Watch and Business Insider:

Global finance completely compromised. “Report Shows How HSBC Maintained Its Ties With One Of Osama Bin Laden’s Key Benefactors,” by Linette Lopez for Business Insider, July 17 (thanks to Twostellas):

Yesterday, the Senate released a report on HSBC’s ties to the darkest actors in global finance. Today, the details of the 335 page investigation are trickling out and shocking everyone.The laundry list of offenses includes everything money laundering for Mexican drug cartels to ignoring U.S. regulations meant to prevent dollars from reaching our country’s known enemies.

Enemies like Al Qaeda.

One of the most damning parts of the report details HSBC’s relationship with Saudi based Al Rajhi Bank, a member of Osama bin Ladin’s ‘Golden Chain’ of important Al Qaeda financiers. The relationship has spanned decades, perhaps that is why even when HSBC’s own internal compliance offices asked that it be terminated in 2005, even when the US government discovered hard evidence of Al Rajhi’s relationship with terrorism, HSBC continued to business with the bank until 2010.

Al Rajhi bank is owned by the billionaire Al Rajhi family and holds $59 billion in assets. It is Saudi Arabia’s largest private bank.

Al Rajhi’s links to terrorism were confirmed in 2002 when U.S. agents searched the offices of a Saudi non-profit and U.S. designated terrorist organization, Benevolence International Foundation (page 193). In that raid, agents uncovered a CD-ROM listing the names of financiers in Osama bin Ladin’s elite ‘Golden Chain.’ One of those names was Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, a founder of Al Rajhi bank….

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HSBC flouted warnings, cozied up to IBBL

July 20, 2012

A report by the U.S. Senate has documented extensive ties between HSBC and Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), the biggest sharia bank in Bangladesh.  HSBC engaged in business activity with the Bangladeshi financial institution despite ample evidence of IBBL facilitating terrorist financing.

As previous Money Jihad coverage has shown, IBBL helped bankroll the dangerous spread of Wahhabi Islam in Bangladesh.  Last year, IBBL was also named by its own government for diverting zakat to fund militant jihad, and one of its sharia board advisers was arrested an interrogated for an attack against police officers.  And that was without even knowing the contents of this report, which are quite damning.

IBBL remains one of the world’s worst examples of the nexus between sharia finance and terror finance.  But HSBC didn’t seem to mind too much.

From Wednesday’s Daily Star:

Terror financed due to HSBC failure

US probe into British bank’s operation in Bangladesh exposes links of 2 local Islamic banks

Terror sharia bank worked closely with HSBC

Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd and Social Islami Bank Ltd came into the spotlight yesterday for their alleged links to terrorist financing after a US Senate report exposed British banking giant HSBC’s internal governance failure to control flows of suspect funds.

Click here to read Full Text of US report

One of the banks was allegedly funding al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law held shares in a company that has shares in the bank.

In all these cases, profit motive rather than cautions from various levels within the bank and standard procedures ruled the game.

More thoughts were given to the bank’s making $47,000 in revenue that might go up to $75,000 a year later than to the terrorist links the banks allegedly had, or the US authorities’ view of the banks.

A report of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, a congressional watchdog panel, has revealed these troubling information which show a “pervasively polluted” culture at HSBC Holdings Plc.

The bank acted as financier to clients seeking to route shadowy funds from the world’s most dangerous and secretive corners, including Mexico, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, according to the report.

The US report also mentioned that Al Rajhi Bank, a Saudi bank, was involved in suspicious transactions.

HSBC apologised to the US Senate, saying it takes “compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously”.

In one instance, when Islami Bank wanted to open a US dollar account with the HSBC US office, questions were raised about the Saudi bank Al Rajhi’s 37 percent ownership in Islami Bank. Ears of HSBC’s anti-money laundering unit were cocked.

But the then head of HSBC Global Banknotes, Chris Lok, felt that his interest in considering a new account depended upon whether there was enough potential revenue to make.

“Is this an account worth chasing….How much money can you expect to make from this name? It’s just that if the revenue is there then we are prepared for a good fight,” he wrote. “The money is there and we should go for this account.”

“Then Lok and others approved the account despite questions about its [Islami Bank] primary shareholder Al Rajhi Bank, whose past links to terrorist financing had received attention in the media …and troubling information about Islami Bank itself,” the senate report said.

HSBC’s own Financial Intelligence Group (FIG) unit had reported that Shaikh Abdur Rahman, chief of Bangladesh’s terrorist outfit JMB, had an account with Islami Bank. Bangladesh Bank found that two branches of Islami Bank had been engaged in “suspicious transactions” and urged the bank to take action against 20 bank employees for failing to report the suspicious transactions, according to the FIG report.

Six top militants including JMB chief Abdur Rahman and his deputy Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai were executed for killing two Jhalakathi judges in 2007.

HSBC’s Know Your Customer unit had reported that Islami Bank be classified as a highest risk client but HSBC rejected the suggestion. It meant HSBC did not subject the bank to any enhanced monitoring.

HSBC’s another internal report said a Saudi NGO, International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), had been implicated in terrorist financing by the US government and included on the list of those prohibited to do business in the US. The IIRO had accounts with both Islami Bank and Social Islami Bank, and yet HSBC’s Compliance Department denied an internal request of due diligence on the bank.

“Today, although HSBC exited the US banknotes business in 2010, Islami Bank remains a customer of two dozen HSBC affiliates,” the report said.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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HSBC could face billion dollar fine

July 17, 2012

HSBC officials will appear before a U.S. Senate committee hearing today.  Analysts expect “a withering review of problems at HSBC and transactions tied to Iran, terrorist financing and drug cartels, according to people familiar with a report the panel has drafted on its investigation.”  ING was recently fined $600 million for similar misbehavior, and IBTimes is predicting the fine for HSBC could be as high as $1 billion:

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HSBC slips into Iran’s warm bed

January 5, 2011

HSBC finds Iran rather more egalitarian than crusty old America.  In a new advertisement, HSBC praises Iran for the number of women directing films and backhands the U.S. for a lack of progress on that front.

But maybe HSBC isn’t just growing tired of Hollywood chauvinism, but bored of conventional loans.  They’ve embraced sharia financial products with growing fervor. 

Pro-Iranian statements and an Islamized division within HSBC would raise the eyebrows of almost any reasonable person.  The Wall Street Journal offered this additional perspective on the HSBC ad on Dec. 31 (hat tip to Israel Matzav):

Once known as the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC wants to be known today as “the world’s local bank.” To convey the message, it plasters airport jetways, city blocks and glossy magazines with colorful, pithy advertisements. From the looks of one such ad, though, HSBC might be more accurately considered “Iran’s useful idiot.”

The ad features a photograph of a desert oasis. In the background are some electrical lines, and in the foreground a lone, robed figure stands behind an old-fashioned video camera. Beside the image is text: “Only 4% of American films are made by women. In Iran it’s 25%,” HSBC informs us. “We find potential in the most unexpected places. Do you?”

Just like that, the banking behemoth reveals the danger of bubble-gum corporate cosmopolitanism: Every now and then, you might suggest that a murderous theocracy is actually a progressive place.

One wonders what Jafar Panahi would make of the suggestion that Iran’s filmmaking environment compares favorably to America’s. We can’t know, however, because the acclaimed director and his colleague Mahmoud Rasoulof were just sentenced to six years in prison. There they’ll join, among others, the filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who news reports say is on a hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Good point!

Note that this is the same HSBC that was bombed by Islamists in Turkey.  It’s the same HSBC that faces pending fines from the U.S. Department of Justice for deceptive practices.  By now, you’d think HSBC would know better.

Would a major corporation or bank ever seek its own protection by buying out imams with hefty stipends for sitting on sharia advisory boards?  Would major companies ever follow the Saudi model of fusing yourself to the zealots to cover your own rear end?  Hmm, make the Islamic clerics happy, and all the sudden your bank branches stop exploding in Turkey.  Remarkable coincidence.

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