Rich Arabs claiming to be donating to the Al-Qaeda were clients of HSBC

news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute| February 9, 2015| 5.30 am IST

As part of an effort by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), newspapers around the world have released names of people hiding stolen cash in foreign banks. The Indian Express has produced over a 100 names of such people in what is being billed as a massive exposure of HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks in Switzerland.

The Geneva-based Le Temps is one of the newspapers which participated in the #SwissLeaks initiative. The article below was carried by the paper, translation to English is by TNM

Mehdi Atmani, Le temps, Geneva

Six months had passed since the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. In the United States, the investigators were working to figure out the financial network of Osama Bin Laden. In March 2002, with the assistance of special Bosnian forces, they raided an international goodwill Foundation in Sarajevo. Among the hard discs which were confiscated, the investigators found a dossier entitled “Osama’s History.” A soft copy of one of the documents contained a list of 20 Arab names, believed to be the largest donators to Al- Qaeda. This supposed link to financial support was baptized “Golden Chain” (la Chaîne d’or)

The Bank should have known

Today, 13 years after this discovery, Swiss leaks can reveal that Bin Laden’s known family had placed their money in Switzerland at the HSBC. Many members of the Golden Chain are also present in the Falciani list. (It may be recalled that in 2008, HervĂ© Falciani working in the informatics department of the HSBC in Geneva had walked out with a list of 8993 people who were trying to escape the French tax authorities.) These people come from very influential circles in Saudi Arabia. Sheikhs and princes who don the covers of business magazines are in this list as managers or owners of international conglomerates. 

Did HSBC know that some of its most prestigious clients could be financing terrorism? In most cases, yes – all that the bank had to do was to read the newspapers. 

For example, take the case of this Saudian aged 70 years, head of an international conglomerate. In July 1999, this native of Jeddah opens an account in his name at the HSBC in Geneva. On June 8 2003, the British daily The Sunday Times mentions him in connection with the Golden Chain. The bank is now confronted with a dilemma because the name of their client does not appear in the official lists of anti-terrorists. We would have gladly met the bank, but HSBC did not encourage any meeting with us

Based on SwissLeaks it has been established that the Saudi conglomerate and their clients remained with HSBC. Between 2006 and 2007, bank transactions in the accounts were around $70 million. At the same time, the investments in the society (whose beneficiary was a Saudian) fluctuated around $200 million. From 2004, HSBC which is one of the most active banks in Saudi Arabia wrote in strict rules to dismantle financing of terrorism. But, this did not prevent the activities of the alleged friends of Ben Laden to continue to do business.

Other examples are found in the Falciani list. In at least three cases, it has come to light that HSBC continued to have banking relations with suspicious clients who were publicly recognised for having financed terrorism.

Read original article in French

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