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HSBC Swiss unit breached money laundering rules, says watchdog

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

HSBC Swiss unit breached money laundering rules, says watchdog

(Sharecast News) - Switzerland's financial watchdog said HSBC's private bank in the country had breached its obligations in the prevention of money laundering in connection with two unnamed "politically exposed" persons.
HSBC was ordered to conduct a review of all current business relationships with politically exposed people and prevented from entering business relationships with them.

According to watchdog FINMA, the suspicious transactions were carried out between 2002 and 2015 with a total value of $300m. The funds were transferred from Lebanon to Switzerland and vice-versa, it added.

"The funds, which originated from a government institution, were transferred from Lebanon to Switzerland and - generally after a short time - primarily flowed back to other accounts in Lebanon. At no time did the bank clarify why a transitory account held with it was used for these transactions," FINMA said in a statement on Tuesday.

HSBC also "failed to recognise the indications of money laundering presented by these transactions; it likewise failed to satisfy requirements for the initiation and continuation of customer relationships with politically exposed persons and was thus in serious breach of its due diligence obligations".

The bank did not notify Switzerland's Money Laundering Reporting Office "over a protracted period" and did not submit a report until 2020, four years after it decided to close the relevant business relationships.

"By doing so, the bank did not comply with either the reporting obligations or the anti-money laundering requirements, in serious breach of supervisory provisions," FINMA said.

Reporting by Frank Prenesti for Sharecast.com

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