Just before Christmas a Fianna Fáil Bill was presented to the House dealing with transparency into the activities of NAMA. However, the proposal not surprisingly was voted down by Fine Gael and Labour, no doubt not wanting to have anything as inconvenient as truth and transparency get in the way of serving their masters in Germany and the ECB. You don’t get to be best boy in class by drawing attention to the bad teachers.
In the course of the discussion Brian Ó Domhnaill TD told the House that two senior officials now on the NAMA payroll had been involved in the HSBC violations of anti-money laundering regulations which ‘may have’ facilitated the receipt and laundering of billions of dollars from drug cartels from Mexico and Columbia. Allegedly the amount involved was in the tens of billions over a decade and a substantial amount was money being laundered on behalf of two state controlled Iranian banks.
Last week HSBC agreed to a record settlement of €1,600million with the US financial regulators and was done so without recourse to the law. This figure we can assume, is supposed to discourage future such ‘transgressions’. You will notice that I did not say ‘fine’ or ‘offence’ or even suggested that any laws were broken. Well, we will never know because the US Justice Department decided against a criminal prosecution as they deemed HSBC simply too big to prosecute. You couldn’t make this up! They maintained that in the event of a successful prosecution it may have had ‘collateral consequences’. By this they were referring to possible penalties which could have included a ban on HSBC operating in the USA and this would have led to massive job losses among the ranks of its banksters and we can’t be having that, can we?
Last year, in the UK alone, sixty five of these HSBC banksters were paid over €1.2million each, the bank itself made a profit €16,800 million in 2011 (over four of our 2013 budgets) while the present CEO Stuart Gulliver was paid €7.2million. The man who was running the show at the time of the ‘mistakes’, Lord Stephen Green, who was on similar remuneration, was awarded a peerage and position of Trade Minister two years ago and presently is a banking advisor to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, as well as being a member of the Cabinet Committee on banking reform.
In 2009, UBS paid €600million to the US regulatory authorities following an investigation which showed that the bank ‘may’ have assisted wealthy Americans engage in tax evasion. By admitting that they had, the bank got a financial slap on the wrists and that was all. Before Christmas we learned that the bank had been hit with a Eur1,250million ‘fine’ in order for rigging the LIBOR interest rate over a period of years, in collusion with at least half a dozen other banks. This is the rate which affects how much you repaid on your credit card or loan account. Still, last year they paid out Eur2,800million in bonus’s to their bankster employees.
A few weeks ago shares in Standard Chartered, the UK’s second largest rose after it agreed to pay €251 million to settle accusations that between 2001 and 2007 it hid information from regulators relating to at least Eur192,000million in direct contravention of regulations which placed sanctions on transactions with Iran, Burma, Libya and Sudan during that period. Problem solved.
So, what has all this to do with the price of cabbage, I hear you ask? Well, I am no detective but financial crimes are no different from others insofar as those you actually detect are a very small percentage of the crimes being committed. Where financial crimes do differ and massively so from other crimes is that you can just buy your way out jail, with the proceeds of the crime you just committed! Try that after robbing the local Post Office.
Seriously, HSBC might as well have paid their paltry fine with a few kilos of cocaine instead. Or, offering to slaughter a few Mexican drug dealers from a rival gang. Morally and ethically, there is absolutely no difference between that and laundering drug money. HSBC were a king pin and enabler in the drug business for years. Yet, they were not prosecuted on any criminal grounds. Go figure.
Since June 2006, Ireland’s central bank has sanctioned 50 financial companies resulting in €18.5m in fines and nine disqualifications for various other violations. Most of the fines – €11m – have been imposed since the creation of the enforcement directorate. (FT 21-06-2012)
UBS’s Life Insurance division in Ireland were hit with a €65,000 (yes, that’s a paltry 65 thousand!) in June 2012. “This is serious to us and we want boards of directors to pay attention,” said Peter Oakes, who is the head of Central Bank of Ireland enforcement directorate. Considering that UBS wrote €688m in gross premiums during 2011 I would say they got off pretty lightly indeed.
Two individuals in England weren’t so lucky. They were sentenced at Croydon Crown to eight years each for money laundering offences and 24 years each for drug trafficking offences in 2010. Martin Brown, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation for HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said: “HMRC investigators were able to … prove their involvement in criminal activities worth millions of pounds. These sentences make it clear to those tempted to launder money, or get involved in the illegal drugs trade, that they are taking a serious risk.” But obviously only is you are a private and not corporate criminal it would seem. HSBC were involved in laundering thousands of millions in drug money, ‘allegedly’ and yet no charges, at all!
The facts are as simple as they are stark. The idea, that these educated grossly overpaid greedy banksters who inhabit the business of international finance can be trusted, is pathetic. It is time for some real regulation. I would suggest that a prescribed number of offences carry a minimum mandatory prison sentence of ten years for the department head within the offending bank. No ifs, no buts, no maybes and definitely no financial only ‘settlements’.
The issuance of all money in circulation by privately owned banks (through the creation of interest bearing debt) must be stopped and the power once again invested in the State. Alas, this is a root of all financial trouble in the world and I shall address it shortly in another article..
People often accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist when I say that there is a ruling elite who are not only above the laws, they make them. Well, to quote Clint Eastwood “don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”. The facts above speak for themselves because right now, only people without wealth need fear the law.