The families of Americans killed by Mexican drug cartels are suing British bank HSBC. The four families allege the bank allowed the cartels to launder billions of dollars to finance their activities.
The allegations come after U.S. federal authorities have been regularly investigating HSBC’s business in Mexico, reports The Guardian. According to U.S. law enforcement, HSBC handled at least $881 million for the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the world’s most powerful gangs. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Feb. 9 in Brownsvillle, Texas.
The victims’ families allege that the bank “knowingly provided continuous and systematic material support to the cartels and their acts of terrorism by laundering billions of dollars for them. As a proximate result of HSBC’s material support to the Mexican drug cartels, numerous lives, including those of the Plaintiffs, have been destroyed.”
HSBC was quick to deny the allegations, issuing a statement that the bank will “vigorously” defend against the suit.
HSBC spokesman Rob Sherman said “[HSBC] is committed to combating financial crime and [has] taken strict steps to help keep bad actors out of the global financial system.”
The families of victims are suing regarding crimes that reportedly took place in 2010, reports International Business Times. Rafael Morales Valencia was reportedly kidnapped at his wedding, along with his brother and uncle, by a cartel before the three were tortured and murdered.
This is not the first time HSBC has come under fire for alleged management of cartel funds. A 2012 report by the U.S. Senate described the financial giant as “pervasively polluted,” and alleged that the bank allowed illegal and terrorist groups to funnel cash through the global financial system.
Plaintiffs are alleging that HSBC is established as the “preferred financial institution for drug cartels and money launderers.”. The bank paid a $1.9 billion fine to the U.S. government in 2012 for allowing money launderers to use its system.
“Driven by its desire to expand its business and increase revenue, HSBC intentionally implemented criminally deficient anti-money laundering programs, processes and controls, which were designed to guarantee that billions of dollars would go through its banks undetected or unreported. And that is exactly what happened,” the lawsuit claims.