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Exclusive: Ex-HMRC Head Joins HSBC Crime Fight

(c) Sky News 2013

HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L - news) is to recruit a line-up of heavyweight figures including Britain's former top taxman to oversee a new effort to combat financial crime following the bank's $1.9bn settlement of money-laundering allegations late last year.

I have learnt that Dave Hartnett, former head of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and Bill Hughes, former head of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, are among a group that will head a new financial crime committee that will be set up to ensure tighter compliance with tightening global regulations.

The formation of the committee, which will report directly to Douglas Flint, HSBC's chairman, and Stuart Gulliver, its chief executive, is expected to be announced today, according to insiders at the bank.

It follows HSBC's settlement in December of allegations by US regulators that it had moved billions of dollars in cash from its affiliate in Mexico to the US despite concerns raised with HSBC that the money could only have involved proceeds from illegal drugs.

The $1.9bn (£1.2bn) fine was the largest ever handed out to a bank.

Mr Gulliver said at the time of the settlement:

"We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes.

"Over the last two years, under new senior leadership, we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing these matters."

Under the terms of the settlement, HSBC's business in the US is subject to strict supervision over a five-year period, although it averted the worst-case scenario of being stripped of its licence to operate there.

The creation of the financial crime sub-committee will be presented by the bank as an attempt to demonstrate its determination to prevent a repeat of the Mexican scandal.

HSBC, which declined to comment, is also understood to have been in talks with Nick Fishwick, a former MI6 officer, about joining the financial crime committee, although the final line-up was unclear on Wednesday morning.