The global bank HSBC may be running offshore accounts for central banks. According to a U.S. Senate investigation, an HSBC subsidiary in London called HSBC Equator Bank had a sister bank in the Bahamas.
According to an internal e-mail, the bank told HSBC USA it had been providing offshore accounts to central banks for 20 years, because the banks wanted to avoid Mareva injunctions, legally enforceable orders to freeze funds.
The NY Times reports today that Charles Prince, CEO of Citigroup, is planning to cut the corporation‘s compliance staff. Reporter Eric Dash says it‘s “to keep the bank from getting bogged down” because “the compliance overhang has made it difficult to be competitive” and “unnecessarily slowed the company down.”
Translation: other banks are laundering profits or running scams to help clients cheat tax authorities and investors, and they make good money at it. Why shouldn‘t we?
Dash noted that Citigroup had beefed up its compliance staff after scandals, including its dealings with Enron. He skimps on details: that Citigroup set up offshore shell companies to help Enron cook the books.
Is Citibank Spain a tax cheat?
New Internationalist, Aug 2006
With help from a whistleblower, I followed the money trail through the offshore operations of Citigroup, the world‘s biggest bank, and discovered that Spanish bankers handling their client’s offshore accounts were getting commissions via an internal accounting system instead of on the regular books.
It is the same internal system that Citigroup used in the 1970s to compensate currency traders in Paris, London, Frankfurt and elsewhere who booked trades in the tax haven Nassau, the Bahamas. They were exposed by an insider, were investigated by the SEC and Congress, and had to pay millions in back taxes. Is this happening again?
This report describes and details a history of tax evasion by the world‘s largest
financial conglomerate, Citigroup. Going back decades, it is a story of
repeated, aggressive tax evasion for itself and clients, depriving governments
and therefore citizens of huge amounts of funds and carried out with relative
There is no little irony in United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointing Robert Rubin (shown here), Robert Rubina chairman of Citibank, to serve on an advisory panel that will propose how to help poor countries where over a billion people suffer abject poverty. He might have some interesting conversations with another panel member, David Bryer, director of Oxfam. Oxfam recently condemned practices of banks such as Citibank as a major part of developing countries’ problems.
Offshore banking has helped Citibank clients hide millions.
Citibank Citibankis leading a fight by American banks to gut the anti-moneylaundering laws currently being considered in Congress”laws that could significantly change the way banks do business for their wealthiest clients.
Citibank is seeking an exception to a proposed ban on doing business with shell banks, which have no physical presence and are situated “virtually” in offshore zones to avoid taxes and regulations. The banks are used to hide and launder perhaps billions of dollars a year.
Criminals — drug dealers or dictators — with embarrassing amounts of cash on hand, or corporations trying to avoid taxation, often use false fronts in poor countries to launder the funds. Major U.S. banks are heavily involved in this unsavory business, so banker Robert Rubin Robert Rubinmay face some interesting questions from the other members of a UN panel intended to help debtor nations.
There is more than a little irony in the appointment of Robert Rubin, a chairman of Citibank, to a United Nations panel which is supposed to propose methods for helping poor countries.