Martin Bashir | December 11, 2012
>>> one of the world's largest banks, hsbc , has agreed to make the biggest payment in history in a settlement over money laundering . a senate investigation found that hsbc , which is based in london, was involved in laundering millions of dollars for mexican drug cartels and even provided funding for saudi banks with links to other terrorist organizations. joining us now is pete williams , our justice correspondent. pete, in reading the report, it seems as though the mexican affiliate of hsbc , among others, has been operating with complete immunity.
>> well, not millions of dollars, billions of dollars.
>> to launder from mexico, and i thought one of the interesting things today is the justice department announced this $2 billion settlement with hsbc is for some of the banks in mexico, the cartels were such regular customers, they knew the exact dimensions in the teller windows, what the gap was, and they had boxes specially made so they could slide the bocks of cash through the teller windows. what the government said today is that they were turning a completely blind eye to this or at least knew about it and failed to do anything about it, and then, of course, doing business , allowing banks to launder money that was coming from cuba, libya, the sudan, and other countries that are on the list of prohibited countries to do business with at u.s. banks. for all those reasons it was a massive settlement with hsbc .
>> it's hard not to assume without slandering or libelling anyone that this was not part of a systemic structure within this bank. to launder this amount of money and for no alarm to be raised suggests there was engagement deliberately by this bank.
>> and the government actually maintains here that in some cases, that the hsbc bankers were instructing their customers how to obscure the fact that they were doing business with prohibited countries. so it wasn't merely a failure to take care. it was actually participating and helping some of these companies evade these restrictions.
>> right. didn't someone realize, for example, that $290 million in traveler's checks might be a little excessive for a used car dealership in russia?
>> and, of course, what hsbc would say, they have a brand new ceo, as you know, and they have changed a lot of their top leadership. he said, you know, we did terrible things here. we're very sorry. he claims they're trying to turn the bank around, that they've made a lot of changes, and this may be one of the reasons that the government didn't -- the u.s. government didn't prosecute hsbc . that's become one of the questions. if they did all these things and you think it was willful in many cases, why weren't they prosecuted? the justice department says they are trying to turn around, and, secondly, they were worried, candidly, if they went ahead and charged hsbc with a crime, it could be a big blow in the global economy .
>> pete williams , justice correspondent, thanks so much.