HSBC Faces New Money Laundering Claims in Argentina

JUSTICE, LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, CAPITALISM, ECONOMICS, 25 Mar 2013

BBC News – TRANSCEND Media Service

Banking giant HSBC, which was hit with a US fine for money laundering last year, is facing fresh accusations of illegal activity in Argentina.

Argentina has alleged that the bank used “fake receipts” to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion, and launder 392m pesos ($77m; £50m).

The country’s tax authority said it had filed criminal charges against HSBC.

HSBC said that it would cooperate with the investigation, adding that the allegations were “of great concern”.

“We are committed to working cooperatively with authorities to ensure a thorough review and appropriate resolution of the matter,” said Lyssette Bravo, a spokeswoman for HSBC.

Last year, HSBC agreed to pay US authorities $1.9bn (£1.2bn) in a settlement over money laundering, the largest paid in such a case.

Argentina laid out its case against HSBC late on Monday.

“On the basis of what’s been investigated so far, in six months we’ve recorded 392 million pesos in fraudulent transactions, generated by evasion and money laundering,” said Ricardo Echegaray, head of Argentina’s tax agency.

Mr Echegaray added that HSBC also helped clients evade taxes on an additional 224m pesos.

“We hope to recover what is due and see the courts apply an appropriate penalty,” he said.

Tightening controls

Money laundering is the process of disguising the proceeds of crime so that the money cannot be linked to the wrongdoing.

HSBC, which has previously admitted to having poor money laundering controls, has been taking steps to tighten its operations.

Last year, it said that it had spent $290m on improving its systems to prevent money laundering.

At the same time, it also appointed a former US official, Bob Werner, to work as its head of financial crime compliance, a new position the bank has created.

The bank said that he will be responsible for beefing up its anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance systems.

Mr Werner was previously the head of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency responsible for enforcing the US sanctions on countries, including Iran.

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