HSBC Bank : Secret Origins to 26/11 Mumbai Attacks
#SwissLeaks what the media has termed it is a trove of secret documents from HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm that reveals names of account holders and their balances for the year 2006-07. They come from over 200 countries, the total balance over $100 billion. But nowhere has the HSBC Swiss list touched off a more raging political debate than in India.
That’s why to obtain and investigate the Indian names, The Indian Express partnered in a three-month-long global project with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Paris-based Le Monde newspaper. The investigation revealed 1,195 Indian HSBC clients, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the Government in 2011. The new revelation— published as part of a global agreement — is expected to significantly widen the scale and scope of the ongoing probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.
For years, when banks have been caught laundering drug money, they have claimed that they did not know, that they were but victims of sneaky drug dealers and a few corrupt employees. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that a considerable portion of the global banking system is explicitly dedicated to handling the enormous volume of cash produced daily by dope traffickers.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not “demand” from the world’s population which creates the mind destroying drug trade. Rather, it is the world financial oligarchy, looking for massive profits and the destruction of the minds of the population it is determined to dominate, which organized the drug trade. The case of HSBC underscores that point. Serving as the central bank of this global apparatus, is HSBC.
Afghan Opium for Bankers and Terrorists
There is a general impression that Afghanistan has always been the center of opium production. In fact, it has not. Prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979, opium production in Afghanistan was less than 1,000 tons; that grew to 8,200 tons (based on conservative UN Office on Drugs and Crime/UNODC figures) in 2008. Throughout this period, Afghanistan was in a state of war. Following the Soviet invasion, the anti-Soviet powers, particularly, the US, UK, and Saudi Arabia, began generating larger amounts of drug money to finance much of the war to defeat the Soviets. Since 1989, after the Soviet withdrawal, there has been an all-out civil war in Afghanistan, as the US-UK-Saudi-created mujahideen dipped further into the opium/heroin money.
What was happening in Afghanistan during this period that caused opium production to soar to those levels? History shows that the US invasion in 2001 came close to wiping out the Taliban forces; the Afghan people, at least at that point in time, because of the Pakistani-Saudi links to the Taliban and the oppressive nature of the Wahhabi-indoctrinated regime, supported the invading American and NATO forces. That began to change in 2005.
The year 2005 is important in this context, since one of the most damning parts of the US Senate report details HSBC’s relationship with the Saudi-based Al Rajhi Bank, a member of Osama bin Laden’s “Golden Chain” of important al-Qaeda financiers. The HSBC-Al Rajhi relationship has spanned decades; perhaps that is why, even when HSBC’s own internal compliance offices asked that it be terminated in 2005, and even when the US government discovered hard evidence of Al Rajhi’s relationship with terrorism, HSBC continued to do business with the bank until 2010.
In fact, the report said, Al Rajhi’s links to terrorism were confirmed in 2002, when US agents searched the offices of a Saudi non-profit US-designated terrorist organization, Benevolence International Foundation. In that raid, agents uncovered a CD-ROM listing the names of financiers in bin Laden’s Golden Chain. One of those names was Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, a founder of Al Rajhi bank.
Recently an operation by German Customs official revealed that the British Queen financed Osama Bin Laden. German officials in an operation raided two containers passing through Hamburg Port and seized 14,000 documents establishing that Osama bin Laden was funded by UK Queen’s bank Coutts, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
HSBC & 26/11 Mumbai Attacks
Why did HSBC not terminate its links with the Al Rajhi in 2005? The answer lies in what was then put in place in Afghanistan to generate large amounts of cash. When it comes to opium/ heroin and offshore banks, Britain rules supreme. In 2005, poppy fields in southern Afghanistan began to bloom, and it became evident to the bankers and the geo-politicians of Britain and the US that cash to support the financial centers and the terrorists could be made right there.
It was announced on Jan. 27, 2006 in the British Parliament that a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be replacing the US troops in Helmand province as part of Operation Herrick. The British 16 Air Assault Brigade would make up the core of the force. British bases were then located in the districts of Sangin, Lashkar Gah, and Gereshk.
As of Summer 2006, Helmand was one of the provinces involved in Operation Mountain Thrust, a combined NATO/Afghan mission targeted at Taliban fighters in the south of the country. In July 2006, the offensive essentially stalled in Helmand, as NATO (primarily British) and Afghan troops were forced to take increasingly defensive positions under heavy insurgent pressure. In response, British troop levels in the province were increased, and new encampments were established in Sangin and Gereshk. In Autumn 2006, some 8,000 British troops began to reach “cessation of hostilities” agreements with local Taliban forces around the district centers where they had been stationed earlier in the Summer, and it is then that drug-money laundering began in earnest.
This drug money, at least a good part of it, is generated in this area with the help of Dawood Ibrahim, who also played a role in helping the Mumbai attackers by giving them the use of his existing network in Mumbai. At the time, Ibrahim worked on behalf of the British, and ran his operation through the British-controlled emirate of Dubai. Drugs came into Dubai through Dawood’s “mules,” protected by the Pakistani ISI and British MI6; the dope was shipped in containers which carried equipment sent there for “repair” from Kandahar and elsewhere in southern Afghanistan. British troops controlled Helmand province, where 53% of Afghanistan’s gargantuan 8,200 tons of opium was produced in 2007.
The drugs were converted, and still are today, to cash in Dubai, where Dawood maintains a palatial mansion, similar to the one he maintains in Karachi. Dubai is a tax-free island-city, and a major offshore banking center. The most common reason for opening an offshore bank account is the flexibility that comes with it.
With the development of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is the latest free-trade zone to be set up there, flexible and unrestricted offshore banking has become big business. Many of the world’s largest banks already have significant presence in Dubai – big names such as Abbey National Offshore, HSBC Offshore, ABN Amro, ANZ Grindlays, Banque Paribas, Banque de Caire, Barclays, Dresdner, and Merrill Lynch, all have offices in the Emirate already.
In addition to Dubai, most of the offshore banks are located in former British colonies, and all of them are involved in money laundering. In other words, the legitimization of cash generated from drug sales and other smuggled illegitimate goods into the “respectable banks” is the modus operandi of these offshore banks. The drugs that Dawood’s mules carry are providing a necessary service for the global financial system, as well as for the terrorists who are killing innocents all over the world.
In December of 2007, this Britain-run drug-money-laundering and terrorist-networking operation was about to be exposed when Afghan President Hamid Karzai learned that two British MI6 agents were working under the cover of the United Nations and the European Union behind his back, to finance and negotiate with the Taliban. He expelled them from Afghanistan. One of them, a Briton, Michael Semple, was the acting head of the EU mission in Afghanistan and is widely known as a close confidant of Britain’s Ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles. Semple now masquerades as an academic analyst of Afghanistan, and was associated with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center. The second man, an Irishman, Mervin Patterson, was the third-ranking UN official in Afghanistan at the time that he was summarily expelled.
These MI6 agents were entrusted by London with the task of using Britain’s 7,700 troops in the opium-infested, Pushtun-dominated, southern province of Helmand to train 2,000 Afghan militants, ostensibly to “infiltrate” the enemy and “seek intelligence” about the lethal arms of the real Taliban. Karzai rightly saw it as Britain’s efforts to develop a lethal group within Afghanistan, a new crop of terrorists.
The drug money thus generated to fund the financial centers and terrorists through HSBC was also responsible for ongoing terrorist attacks that have destabilized most of South Asia. The most important of these was the massive attack on Mumbai.
The mode used to launder such drug money is through diamonds. A 2003 Report assessed various alternative financing mechanisms that could be used to facilitate money laundering and or terrorist financing. Trading in commodities, remittance systems, and currency were assessed on each of their abilities to earn, be moved, and store value. Diamonds were the only alternative financial device that fit into all of these assessment criteria.
Top diamond traders of the country, several of whom are now settled abroad, figure on what the media calls as the #SwissList, with mostly Mumbai addresses given. Many persons on the list are Gujarati diamond merchants with offices all over world having roots in Palanpur.
However their involvement in not just limited to money laundering. Almost 6 months before 26/11 2008 Mumbai Attacks the Financial Intelligence Unit of India (FIU-IND) (the central national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions) was already tracking the diamond industry for suspicious activities by terrorists.
Diamonds can be vulnerable for misuse for money laundering and terrorist financing purposes because they can transfer value and ownership quickly, often, with a minimal audit trail. They provide flexibility and an easy transportation of value.
Almost 6 months before 26/11 2008 Mumbai Attacks the Financial Intelligence Unit of India (FIU-IND) (the central national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions) was already tracking the diamond industry for suspicious activities by terrorists.
“A year ago, some people from Mumbai began purchasing diamonds worth crores of rupees. When the industry tried to trace the traders, they turned out to be non-existent,” said Vanani.
The FIU traced all foreign transactions of Surat’s diamond industry, especially those emanating from Belgium. It found that a great deal of money was being invested by terrorist groups.
However in May 2014 eight of these Belgium based diamond dealers were given a clean chit by the Income Tax department in the black money case. The I-T department said a probe was initiated against the eight individuals, but there was no proof of tax evasion by them. Why is the Government reluctant in disclosing Black Money related data; be it NDA and even UPA before it ? For a detailed report on the issue read 26/11 – The Black Money Trail.
From the Far East to the Middle East to Ibero-America to India, everywhere the drug trade is flourishing, you will find HSBC. It may not handle the dope, but it does handle the money, making sure that the “citizens above suspicion” who run the empire get their cut of the proceeds. Now HSBC has been caught red-handed laundering money in the U.S., India, China, Argentina almost everywhere the sun shined through the colonies. This is a bank which has abused us, assaulted our people, and violated the law with abandon. Isn’t it time we set an example and revoke its charter to do business here in India?