US Justice Department Overlooks HSBC’s Money Laundering for Drug Cartels

by Vins
Published: Updated:


US corporate media hailed the arrest of alleged Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, whose Sinaloa Cartel is among the most powerful transnational drug traffickers. US Attorney General Eric Holder called the arrest a “landmark achievement.” Yet the fanfare surrounding Guzmán’s arrest obscures how the infamous Sinaloa Cartel received assistance in its drug dealing enterprise from the HSBC banking corporation.

In 2012, HSBC agreed to surrender $1.256 billion and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department for violating numerous laws, including those against laundering money for drug cartels that included Sinaloa.

“As a result of HSBC Bank  [anti-money laundering] failures,” a December 11, 2012 Justice Department statement reads, “at least $881 million in drug trafficking proceeds–including proceeds of drug trafficking by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia–were laundered through HSBC Bank USA.” The DOJ proceeded to call the bank’s failures “stunning,” “astonishing” and “blatant.”

According to court documents and US prosecutors, in 2008 Mexican authorities told HSBC Mexico’s CEO that a local drug lord referred to the bank as the “place to launder money.” “The practice was so unchecked …that on some days drug traffickers deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars at HSBC Mexico accounts.”

The DOJ “stopped short of indicting HSBC,” because, “HSBC would certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

Source: Janine Jackson, “’El Chapo’ and El Banco,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting Blog, February 25, 2014,

Student Researcher: Josue Simplice (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluator: James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)