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July 8, 2015


In law school we learned that there are no common law crimes, that all such descriptions of the laws violated and the punishments provided for breaking them must be statutory, and that all such determinations are legislative and not judicial functions. The idea of “let the punishment fit the crime” is a rule and guide for both state and federal legislative bodies and thus, for instance, jaywalking and murder are punished quite differently, as are misdemeanors and felonies in general.

We can and do therefore distinguish between users and providers of illicit drugs. Some states allow a few ounces of marijuana in possession of users; others define it as a misdemeanor, but all or nearly all of our state legislatures and our federal Congress come down hard with heavy penalties on suppliers, especially (if apprehended) on Columbian and Mexican drug gang dealers who bring hard drugs into America literally by the boat load (or by plane or any other means of transportation available) to keep American addicts addicted and the rest of us victimized by the resulting crime and pain and other social costs we must bear which add millions or even billions to the total costs of this illicit trade. All of us are aware as well of the mayhem created by murderous rampages in turf wars between Mexican drug dealers who not only shoot one another but also shoot police, judges, prosecutors and others who stand in their way of making millions or even billions off the lucrative North American drug trade.

These drug gangs south of the border could not enjoy the continuing success they have had if they had no financial connection to launder the hundreds of millions of dollars (or even billions over time) they rake in from their North American drug markets. It is not enough to merely possess the money; there has to be a means of placing it in circulation in as innocuous a way as possible free from the probing eyes of the police and others charged with detection of such illegal activities. The drug dealers need a bank, and preferably a big bank with all of the prestige and political cover that goes with banks “too big to fail.” They need an HSBC or JP Morgan Chase or other big and politically immunized institution to put their ill-gotten gains into (undetected) circulation.

All of the foregoing occurred to me this morning when I heard on the TV show “Good Morning, America” that HSBC (a British bank, the biggest in Europe – imported from Hong Kong to London and now some 150 years old) was firing six of its employees for staging a mock ISIS execution. I had just read in the June 19 edition of The Week that “London-based HSBC, which employs 250,000 people globally, will shed as many as 50,000 jobs as it tries to cut costs by $5 billion annually over the next two years,” so that parenthetically and under the circumstances I am surprised that only six participated in the “execution.”

HSBC paid a multi-billion fine for laundering Mexican drug gang money through its American subsidiary not so long ago. I wrote a blog at the time complaining that the bank only paid a chump change fine and that no one went to jail for the bank’s facilitation of bringing drugs to America and that at least their banking license to do business as a subsidiary under American auspices should have been cancelled. Nothing happened (per usual); the bank paid the fine and its board of directors and executives walked.

The bank has since paid fines for conspiring with American (and other) rich people for rigging Swiss bank accounts so that such taxpayers (including American rock stars) could evade paying income taxes, and at or about the time of their drug gang admission of guilt the bank paid another fine for financial dealings with Iran while under sanctions. These are the things we know about. Whatever else they have done, are doing or will be doing are yet unknown. One has to wonder if HSBC is a bank or a criminal enterprise oblivious to the atomic aspirations of Iran, the addiction of millions of North American drug addicts and the damage to our tax collection laws and budgets. Is the profit motive so overriding that they would  participate in the destruction of organized societies in pursuit of profit? The short answer is yes.

There were many other things we were taught in criminal law classes in law school and one was that the driver of the getaway car in a bank robbery is as guilty and punishable as the robber who held a gun in the teller’s face. It is plain to me that HSBC fits that description with its laundering of Mexican drug gangs’ monies gained by the latter’s transport and sale of illicit drugs to North America, a criminal venture that could not have succeeded but for the bank’s illegal laundering service. The bank was driving the “getaway car,” so to speak.

If indicted and a court should decide that such facilitation of the drug trade did not amount to a crime punishable as the crime in chief, then at least I think we can say and prove that the bank knowingly aided and abetted the commission of the crimes committed by their Mexican “depositors” and that they are criminally responsible and punishable for their financial sponsorship of such felonies, since aiding and abetting in the commission of a felony is a felony in its own right. Finally, if a court should not agree to the aiding and abetting angle, there is always the felony of conspiracy to commit a felony, which plainly had to happen in negotiations between HSBC and the Mexican drug gang leaders. The bank knew the score and doubtless went after a big share of the proceeds in proportion to the risk they were taking as co-conspirators. The bank did not deliver the drugs, but in knowingly making such delivery possible it too was a felon and should have been punished with fines AND its directors and officers sent to jail.

When you and I aid and abet and/or conspire to commit a crime or actually commit a crime and are apprehended, we go to prison, so my questions include but are not limited to the following: Why, after the commission of several felonies (those known to date) in venues stretching from Switzerland to Iran to Mexico to North America, does HSBC still have a license to bank anywhere? Why hasn’t its corporate charter been revoked? Too big to fail? It has already failed in terms of its credibility as a bank. What’s next? Are we going to have a turnabout as the tellers of HSBC put guns in the faces of their depositors?

I entitled this essay The Agony and the Ecstasy – and Irony. The “agony” has reference to the drug addicts and the rest of us victimized by this scourge, the “ecstasy” refers as a catchall for all drugs and refers to HSBC, which facilitated such illicit trade, and the “irony,” which refers to the bank’s firing of its six employees who have “embarrassed” the bank with their ISIS portrayal.

It is my opinion that this “bank” with its dismal criminal rap sheet is long since beyond susceptibility to embarrassment, and I would not put it past this bank with its myopic greed as policy to be involved in financing and otherwise facilitating ISIS or other society-destroying rogue state(s) in pursuit of profit.

We have far better and more positive and productive uses for capital than allowing it to be used to cover up felonies while felonies are committed in the process. We and the world would be much better off had HSBC stayed in Hong Kong where such bank could have financed the Opium Wars in the Orient around the turn of the 20th century (which perhaps it did). Greed knows no boundaries in place or time.

HSBC should be disbanded and its assets distributed to banks which do banking rather than cover-ups via laundered funds for dope peddlers, cover in Switzerland for tax evaders and illegal financial transactions with the mullahs of Iran. Why are we allowing this charade? Let’s end it.   GERALD    E


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