HSBC bank

The family members of US citizens killed in Mexico from drug violence have sued HSBC for permitting cartels to launder huge amounts of illicit money through the bank, a case that could have major implications for how accomplices of the drug trade are prosecuted. 

The lawsuit claims HSBC is liable for the violence that stems from international drug trafficking because the London-based bank knowingly allowed drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries, reported Reuters. In December 2012, HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion in fines to US authorities following charges that Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia's Norte del Valle Cartel laundered $881 million through the bank. 

The lawsuit refers to the murders of US citizens by Mexican drug cartels between 2010 and 2011, according to Bloomberg. The victims' family members are now attempting to hold HSBC accountable for their deaths under the US Anti-Terrorism Act.

"The Mexican drug cartels are terrorists who routinely commit horrific acts of violence to intimidate, coerce, and control the civilian population and the government,” a lawyer for the families wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg. "HSBC was complicit in laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels and should be held accountable under the Anti-Terrorism Act for supporting their terrorism."

The bank has reportedly said it will contend the lawsuit.

InSight Crime Analysis

If HSBC is ordered to pay damages to the families victimized by cartel violence it could potentially open a new set of possibilities regarding who is liable to prosecution for their role in the international drug trade.

In the most obvious example, other banks besides HSBC would become very nervous. In 2010, Wachovia (which is now part of Wells Fargo) agreed to pay $160 million after US prosecutors found over $100 million in drug proceeds had been laundered through the bank. And these cases may just be the tip of the iceberg; in 2012 a US Department of Justice official said international drug traffickers launder $85 billion each year in the United States.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

But as El Daily Post points out, a wide range of actors besides banks could also be considered liable for Mexico's drug violence, from real estate agents to car dealers to even drug consumers. Ruling against HSBC may expose a plethora of other US institutions to lawsuits as well.

A successful lawsuit could also embolden Mexican victims of the drug war to file similar complaints, who outnumber their US counterparts by an overwhelming majority. A staggering 60,000 people are believed to have died as a result of drug violence in Mexico between 2006 and 2012. 

Whether the complaint has legal merit, however, is uncertain. The plaintiffs are suing HSBC under the US Anti-Terrorism Act, but no Mexican drug cartel has ever been listed as a foreign terrorist organization by US authorities. This case could therefore revive debate about whether cartels should be considered terrorist groups. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.