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HSBC ‘seriously violated’ Swiss money laundering rules, regulator says

A spokesperson for HSBC said the bank planned to appeal Finma's decision.
A spokesperson for HSBC said the bank planned to appeal Finma's decision.

HSBC’s Swiss private bank failed to conduct adequate checks on more than $300m (£236m) worth of transactions over the course of 13 years, the country’s banking regulator has found.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) said on Tuesday that the business had “seriously violated financial market law” over its relationship with two unnamed politically exposed customers.

It has blocked HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA, which deals with higher net-worth clients, from entering into any new business relationships with politically exposed persons until the business conducts a review of all its current high-risk and politically-exposed customers.

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A spokesperson for HSBC said the bank planned to appeal Finma’s decision.

HSBC failed to properly check the origins, purpose, or background of the assets involved in the two high-risk relationships, Finma said.

The bank was found to have insufficiently checked and documented more than $300m (£236m) worth of funds sent between Lebanon and Switzerland between 2002 and 2015.

Finma said these funds originated from an unnamed government institution and were sent from Lebanon to Switzerland and back to other accounts in Lebanon.

It added that HSBC “failed to recognise the indications of money laundering presented by these transactions”, with its handling of the issue making it “impossible to establish the legitimate nature of these transactions”.

“We acknowledge the matters raised by Finma, which are historic,” HSBC said in a statement.

“HSBC takes its anti-money laundering obligations very seriously including complying with all laws and regulations in every market we operate in. As we plan to appeal the decision, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”