HSBC Sued For Money Laundering By Families Of Americans Murdered By Mexican Cartels
In an unprecedented legal move, families of Americans murdered by Mexican drug cartels filed a lawsuit this week against the London-based HSBC bank for allegedly providing “continuous and systematic material support” to Mexico’s Sinaloa, Juárez, and Los Zetas cartels by laundering billions of dollars.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday against HSBC Holdings, HSBC Bank USA, and HSBC México S.A. in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiffs are the Zapata, Avila, Redelfs and Morales families. Three of the victims were U.S. government employees.
In 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila, Jr. came under heavy fire from cartel members while travelling in an armored vehicle displaying U.S. diplomatic plates in northern Mexico. Zapata was killed and Avila wounded.
Lesley Enriquez Redelfs, an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, a detention officer for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department, were ambushed by members of the Juárez Cartel in 2010. Lesley Enriquez Redelfs, who was four months pregnant, was fatally shot twice in the head.
The fourth victim, Rafael Morales Valencia, was abducted on his wedding day in Mexico, tortured and then murdered by assassins identified as members of the Sinaloa Cartel.
“During the time period leading up to the attacks on the Victims, HSBC knowingly laundered billions of dollars for the Mexican cartels who committed the attacks, including the Sinaloa, Juárez, and Los Zetas Cartels, knowing or deliberately disregarding the fact that said funds would be used to support the Mexican cartels and their terrorist acts against Mexican and U.S. citizens,” the 103-page complaint says.
HSBC, Europe’s largest bank by market value, said it intended to defend itself “vigorously” against the legal claims. “We are committed to combating financial crime and have taken strict steps to help keep bad actors out of the global financial system,” the bank said in a statement, according to Reuters.
In 2012, HSBC Holdings agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion in fines to U.S. authorities for allowing itself to be used to launder drug money from Mexico. The Department of Justice said at the time that the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel together laundered $881 million through HSBC and a Mexican branch.
In this week’s lawsuit, the Plaintiffs accused HSBC of having operated in a “culture of recklessness and corruption” in which employees in their branches in Mexico “routinely accepted deposits of hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of U.S. dollars from individuals with no identifiable source of income, delivered in multiple boxes specially designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows.”
The lawsuit alleges that without being able to integrate their illicit proceeds into the global financial network, the cartels’ ability to corrupt and acquire personnel, weapons, planes, communication devices, raw materials for drug production, their operations would be substantially impeded. According to one drug lord, HSBC was “the place to launder money,” the complaint says.
The plaintiffs are seeking judgment against HSBC for the maximum amount allowed under the Anti-Terrorism Act.