HSBC Headquarters Raided in Argentina
August 15, 2014 • 8:45AM

Call it "the Mother of the Vultures." HSBC, the Crown Jewel of the British monarchy's Opium Wars, then and now, found its Buenos Aires headquarters and two other offices raided Wednesday by agents of Argentina's AFIP tax bureau, in search of documents for the tax-evasion and money-laundering case opened against the empire's bank last February.

Argentine authorities are charging HSBC with being a criminal enterprise, setting up an elaborate mechanism through which local companies could lie about their earnings. According to the Buenos Aires Herald, "a source close to the investigation said the AFIP had become aware of HSBC Bank Argentina offering products tailored to suit the needs of companies that had been issuing fake invoices, which are often used to whitewash illicit cash or carry out actions intended to evade fiscal obligations."

The documents sought were not found, local media are reporting, adding that HSBC officials told AFIP agents that they are stored in facilities run by "Iron Mountain," a New York-originated company which offers offsite storage locations for documents and computer records of banks and businesses. Iron Mountain bills its premises as safe in a catastrophe—although one of its Buenos Aires warehouses burned to the ground this past February, in a blaze that killed nine firefighters.

All of the above criminal details are a dime-a-dozen in today's banking world. The U.S. Senate provided the Obama administration's Department of Justice over a year ago with 300-plus pages of documentation of HSBC role as a primary money-launderer into the U.S. for Mexico's bloody drug cartels and Al Qaeda terrorists globally. What's not so common, is that a government actually moves in to close down such an operation. Does Argentina have more in store for all the international banks waging financial war against it?