In June 2017 I stood against Home Secretary Amber Rudd for election to parliament, fighting corruption. During a hustings in Rye, Amber Rudd had the chairman of the meeting shut me up when I started talking about HSBC and its links to Saudi Arabia. In an effort to keep talking I changed the subject to my concerns about Tory plans to shut down the allegedly independent Serious Fraud Office and for all fraud investigations to be handled by the National Crime Agency, which is under the auspices of the Home Secretary.
It transpired that Amber Rudd’s brother Roland is the owner of a PR company Finsbury, which handles the global PR for HSBC.
It was reported earlier in 2017 that HSBC had handled $545 of dirty Russian money through Hong Kong, part of the “Russian Laundromat” scandal. Last year the National Crime Agency were ordered to stop their investigation into Russian money laundering, connected to Bill Browder’s company Hermitage, of which HSBC was trustee and manager, basically saying someone else will sort it out. (Note, I am no supporter of Bill Browder, that’s another can of worms involving HSBC)
Until April 2017 the Chair of the BBC Trust was HSBC director Rona Fairhead, now Baroness Fairhead, International Trade Minister. Rona Fairhead was head of the risk committee of HSBC US at the time they were laundering money for the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, terrorist groups and other unsavoury characters. She was unlawfully appointed to head the BBC by Sajid Javid, tax dodger at Deutsche Bank. In 2012 HSBC entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement in the US, paying $1.9bn on the basis that for the next 5 years they will not be involved in any further crimes the subject of the DPA, such as money laundering.
HSBC only avoided prosecution in the US through the involvement of George Osborne (PPS Amber Rudd) on the basis that the world would end if HSBC were prosecuted.
As a consequence of the DPA HSBC was required to recruit a monitor to ensure their compliance with the order. They chose a company called Exiger and in the US their monitor was Michael Cherkasky.
In Europe the monitor was Lisa Osofsky
HSBC paid Lisa’s firm Exiger $200m a year to monitor the DPA.
Lisa is married to Marc Wasserman, a London based partner in US law firm Sidley Austin and a large chunk of the $200m will have gone to his firm, who also worked on the monitoring. They also acted for HSBC in other matters (particularly advising HFC when it was sold to HSBC in 2003, one of the main causes of the global financial crisis), so I’m assuming there is an enormous Chinese Wall down the centre of the office.
During the period that Wasserman’s firm was advising on the DPA, in 2016, another partner in the London office of Sidley Austin , Matthew Cahill resigned from the firm after being charged with tax fraud, having allegedly invested in a tax avoidance scheme set up by HSBC, known as Zeus Partners. HSBC are now being investigated for the scheme.
In October 2017 Lisa and Marc took out a mortgage with HSBC and bought a mansion flat in Kensington, valued by Zoopla at £3.3m. It is not known how much the mortgage was for. (David Cameron also took out an HSBC mortgage on his £3.5m home, up the road in Notting Hill, 8 days before the EU referendum)
In December 2017 HSBC was released from its DPA and given a clean bill of health by Lisa Osofsky. (In January 2018 they entered into a new one. ) The Russian Laundromat took place between 2010-16, HSBC have been prosecuted in Switzerland for tax evasion, and are under suspicion for facilitating illegal capital outflows from China. There are some 13 pages in the latest accounts of pending litigation or prosecutions around the world against the bank. Arguably some of these should have been taken into consideration when considering releasing HSBC from its DPA.
In February 2018 Matthew Cahill had all charges against him dropped by the CPS, for their “wholesale failures”. His lawyer stated this, after the charges were dropped:
In May 2018 it was known that Lisa Osofsky was to be the new director of the Serious Fraud Office but there was frustration at the delay in the announcement. The Times stated:
On 28 August 2018 Lisa started in her new job, as Director of the Serious Fraud Office and on 9 October MPs gave HSBC director Jonathan Evans his final “interview” for the job of Chair of the Committee for Standards in Public Life.
Neither the SFO website refers to Osofsky’s role at HSBC, nor does the official announcement of her appointment by the Attorney General which merely refers to “assessing the money laundering and sanctions programmes of global financial institutions under orders imposed by prosecutors and regulators”.
There is, of course, no suggestion that anyone has done anything wrong.