Five questions answered on HSBC’s money laundering provisions

Mexican drug money has passed through the bank.

HSBC has announced it has put more money aside to deal with US money laundering fines. We answer five questions on HSBC’s money laundering provisions.

How much more money has HSBC put aside?

A further 4800 million (£500 million) to cover potential money laundering fines imposed by the US. It had previously put aside $700 million.

Why does HSBC have to pay money laundering fines?

Because a report by the US Senate said that Mexican drug money had almost certainly passed through HSBC.

How much could these future fines cost HSBC?

HSBC is currently in discussion with US authorities in regards to a final settlement in fines. However, it did tell the BBC the "final amount of the financial penalties could be higher, possibly significantly higher [than the $1.5bn already set aside]".

The bank may also face corporate criminal charges, as well as civil penalties. In a statement released with its third quarter results the bank said:

"While the prosecution of corporate criminal charges in these types of cases has most often been deferred through an agreement with the relevant authorities, the US authorities have substantial discretion, and prior settlements can provide no assurance as to how the US authorities will proceed in these matters."

What about HSBC’s other finances?

Pre-tax profits for HSBC were announced by the bank as $3.5bn from July to September, down $3.7bn from a year earlier. However, underlying profits for the quarter totaled $5bn, more than double the figure recorded for the same quarter a year ago.

Is HSBC, like other banks in the UK, also embroiled in the PPI mis-selling scandal?

Yes. This is also costing the bank significant sums of money. It has set aside a further £223m in the UK to pay for PPI compensation claims, taking its total provisions to £1.3bn and the total for the UK banking industry as a whole to almost £13bn.

HSBC has put money aside to deal with laundering fines. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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As crime moves online, the police need the investment in technology to follow

Technology offers solutions, not just threats.

It’s perhaps inevitable that as the world becomes more digital, so does crime. This week Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, recognised that online crime is as serious as face-to-face crime. “Hate is hate,” Saunders wrote referring to internet abuse, and the police should protect people from it wherever they are. This will add demand to under-pressure police forces. And it is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Forty-seven per cent of crime involves an online element. Police recorded 30,000 instances of online stalking and harassment last year. People are 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery, costing businesses an estimated £144bn a year. On a conservative estimate, 2,500 UK citizens use the anonymous dark web browser, Tor, for illegal purposes such as drug dealing, revenge porn and child sexual exploitation.

The police need new technology to meet demand, a Reform report published today finds. Some progress has been made in recent years. West Midlands Police uses an online portal for people to report incidents. Durham uses evidence-gathering software to collect social media information on suspects, and then instantly compile a report that can be shared with courts. Police have benefited from smartphones to share information, and body-worn cameras, which have reduced complaints against police by 93 per cent.

Yet, Theresa May’s 2016 remarks that police use “technology that lags woefully behind what they use as consumers” still stand. Officers interviewed for Reform’s research implored: “Give us the tools to do our job”.

Online evidence portals should be upgraded to accept CCTV footage. Apps should be developed to allow officers to learn about new digital threats, following the US army’s library of knowledge-sharing apps. Augmented-reality glasses are being used in the Netherlands to help officers identify evidence at digital crime scenes. Officers would save a trip back to the station if they could collect fingerprints on smartphones and statements on body-worn cameras.

New technology requires investment, but forces are reducing the resources put into IT as reserves have dried up. Durham plans to cut spend by 60 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-20. The government should help fund equipment which can meet demand and return future productivity savings. If the Home Office invested the same as the Department of Health, another department pushing “transformative” technology, it would invest an extra £450m a year. This funding should come from administrative savings delivered through accelerating the Government’s automation agenda, which the think tank Reform has previously calculated would save Whitehall £2.6bn a year.

As crime moves online, police must follow. Saunders is right to point to the importance of meeting it. But technology offers solutions, not just threats. Installing the next generation of equipment will give police the tools to do their jobs, addressing online hate and more. 

Alexander Hitchcock is a senior researcher at reform