Argentine prosecutor Jorge Dall Rocha officially filed criminal charges on Sept. 10 against executives of the Buenos Aires branch of the Queen's own HSBC, the notorious drug and money-laundering bank, for money-laundering and "aggravated tax evasion" of $392 million. If found guilty, the accused could serve a prison term of between three and nine years.
Aside from HSBC, two other companies that operated as part of the bank's criminal enterprise, were also indicted.
The Sept. 10 court filing follows the Aug. 15 raid on HSBC's offices by the federal tax agency, AFIP, which had been tracking the bank's criminal behavior over a period of years. The daily Pagina 12 reported Thursday that the bank is being charged with "illicit association" designed to launder money and evade payment of both income and Value Added taxes. The bank had set up an elaborate mechanism to assist its clients in laundering money "of uncertain origin" through its own accounts, even creating a non-existent "ghost" branch as part of the scheme.
Following the Aug. 15 raid, the Buenos Aires Herald reported that "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."
Contrast the Argentine action to the more gentle handling of the HSBC by the U.S. Justice Department, which offered the bank a "deferred" prosecution deal and a fine for HSBC on far bigger and more egregious crimes like laundering drug and terror money.