Let me tell you about the largest, most powerful, richest and arguably most villainous criminal organisation in the world. It was born in the opium trade between Britain and China, it has links to some of the most disgustingly and arbitrarily violent people anywhere, it intimidates national leaders without lifting a finger, it is extraordinarily avaricious and it can act blatantly and openly without interference from government because the power it holds is so vast and preposterous. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation might just be the most vile systemically corrupt and disgusting barrel of bastards in the world and most of their history is kept as quiet as possible.
You know the most jarring thing? I actually have to be quite careful about what I write here because it is genuinely possible that I’ll find myself on the wrong end of a speculative lawsuit launched at me by honourless lawyers. The only reason I’m going to write this anyway is because they’re in the news here in the UK at the moment and they really are (and always have been) unspeakably disgusting. They are not merely ‘incompetent’ as some MP’s are beginning to suggest as they begin yet another round of fruitless name calling after yet another thieving scandal, they are thieves and cons on a colossal scale.
So how evil is HSBC? Well when the Emperor of China outlawed the opium trade the British Empire responded to this loss of income by declaring war and bombarding his palace (and, of course killing a huge amount of innocent peasants in the process). The Emperor sued for peace and allowed Britain to resume the trading of opium and take control of Hong Kong. It was a terrible settlement for China and a fantastic one for Britain, so good that the shipping companies needed a new bank to deal with the enormous amount of money rolling in. That bank was, of course, HSBC.
At this point it’s worth jumping ahead to the twenty first century for a number of reasons. Firstly banking was even more horribly secretive than it is now for most of the intervening time and secondly if I went through every scandal this article would take forever. I won’t go in to detail about the way they have kept billions of dollars of Colonel Gaddafi’s money from the country that morally owns it. I won’t go in to detail about their horribly cozy relationship with Malaysian timber conglomerates who stand accused of some of the most rapacious deforestation practices I’ve ever heard of. I won’t go in to detail about their close relationship with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has well documented links to Islamic extremist terrorist organisations. Instead I shall go in to detail about HSBC laundering the money of their good, close friends in the Sinaloa Cartel.
In 2012 HSBC was told to pay a fine of $1.9 billion. It was found that HSBC had spent years ignoring the very obvious signs of money laundering and heavily implied that they might have been actively helping the Sinaloa cartel of Mexico (which is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and is purported to have in place a daily murder quota, seriously). So much money was flooding in from their friends that they seriously considered enlarging the teller windows to fit larger boxes of cash. They allowed cartel members to open bank accounts without submitting even basic information about their existence or providing any form of ID. 15 percent of their Mexican customers didn’t even have a file on record anywhere in the bank, just a numbered account.
This behaviour spread, of course, a number of Russian customers who claimed to be used car salesmen were depositing over $500,000 per day in to HSBC accounts. HSBC almost certainly began to help Sudan, Burma and North Korea evade sanctions.
Now on the face of it you could say that the latest scandal pales in comparison, it is just tax evasion after all, but it’s symptomatic of a wider problem; they are above the law. It’s often said that they act like they’re above the law or that they think they’re above the law but that’s only because they are above the law. $1.9 billion sounds like a huge number to us lowly plebs but it’s barely five weeks of profit for these bastards and nobody went to prison. Nobody ever goes to prison.
And they are bastards. Stuart Gulliver, the current thief in chief of HSBC, is being paid through a Panamanian company with a private account in Switzerland and he says that’s all standard practice and perfectly innocent and he expects you to believe him and he gets angry when you don’t. He thinks it’s not your place to question the likes of him. Who’s to say he’s wrong? He is above the law, his colleagues are above the law and our politicians are too spineless to nationalise the whole fetid enterprise. This is what’s wrong with so much money being so concentrated: feudal privilege makes a comeback and the misshapen, decaying shell of representative democracy is further battered in to meaninglessness on the anvil of capitalism.