Families of Mexican Drug Cartel Victims File Lawsuit Against HSBC for Money Laundering

Using the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, this suit attempts to hold the bank responsible for enabling criminal activity.

Image via Flickr user Michael Fleshman

In December 2012, HSBC Holdings Plc., a bank corporation chartered in the United Kingdom (and also in McLean, Virginia, as HSBC Bank USA), agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion in fines to U.S. authorities for laundering Mexican drug cartel money. As Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said at the time, HSBC was being held accountable for “stunning failures of oversight—and worse” that allowed the money laundering to occur.

But the story isn’t over. Families of U.S. citizens murdered by the cartels just filed a lawsuit alleging HSBC’s responsibility in these victims’ deaths, claiming the bank enabled the killings via money laundering. According to Bloomberg Business, the case, Zapata v. HSBC Holdings Plc., will be tried in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas (Brownsville).

Lawyers representing the aggrieved families argue that HSBC can be held legally accountable for the murders—carried out by Mexican cartels in 2010 and 2011—because the bank’s money laundering violated the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. Interestingly, the lawsuit casts the Mexican cartels, known for their brutal tactics, as terrorists, which would be a major redefinition of the groups and their drug-related activities.

“The Mexican drug cartels are terrorists who routinely commit horrific acts of violence to intimidate, coerce, and control the civilian population and the government,” Richard Elias, a lawyer for the victims’ families, said in an email to Bloomberg. “HSBC was complicit in laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels and should be held accountable under the Anti-Terrorism Act for supporting their terrorism.”

According to a Justice Department investigation, HSBC severely understaffed its anti-money-laundering (AML) division. Despite evidence of money-laundering risks associated with doing business in Mexico, HSBC rated the risk “standard” in its risk category.

“As a result, HSBC Bank USA failed to monitor over $670 billion in wire transfers and over $9.4 billion in purchases of physical U.S. dollars from HSBC Mexico during this period, when HSBC Mexico’s own lax AML controls caused it to be the preferred financial institution for drug cartels and money launderers,” the Justice Department said in December, announcing the bank’s record fine.

“A significant portion of the laundered drug-trafficking proceeds were involved in the Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE), a complex money-laundering system that is designed to move the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs in the United States to drug cartels outside the United States, often in Colombia,” continued the Justice Department announcement.

Last month, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, in Brooklyn, said a report produced by monitors overseeing HSBC’s AML cleanup efforts should be made public. Written by monitor Michael Cherkasky, the 1,000-page report details HSBC’s resistance to reform.

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less