HSBC Holdings PLC has been sued by families of American citizens killed in Mexico, who alleged that the bank helped drug cartels launder money to run their businesses and thus, can be held responsible for the deaths, reports said Tuesday. The bank paid a $1.9 billion fine in 2012 to settle a criminal probe into whether it laundered at least $881 million on behalf of drug cartels.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a federal court in Brownsville, Texas, argues that the London-based bank should be held accountable for a series of murders in 2010 and 2011 under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, Bloomberg reported. It alleged that HSBC contributed directly to international drug and trafficking trade, and the “brutal acts” that accompanied it, Reuters reported. HSBC reportedly said it would fight the claims in the lawsuit.
“The Mexican drug cartels are terrorists who routinely commit horrific acts of violence to intimidate, coerce, and control the civilian population and the government,” Richard Elias, a lawyer for the victims and their families, said, according to Bloomberg. “HSBC was complicit in laundering billions of dollars for drug cartels and should be held accountable under the Anti-Terrorism Act for supporting their terrorism,” Elias added.
The lawsuit mentions the case of Lesley Redelfs, a pregnant woman, and her husband, Arthur, who were both shot by the Juarez cartel while returning from a party thrown by her office, the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. The case also mentions the incident that took place with two special agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila Jr., both of who worked with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, who were run off the road by two vehicles filled with hit men from the Los Zetas cartel. The men reportedly opened fire at them later, Bloomberg reported, adding that only Avila survived the attack.
Zapata’s case drew criticism at the time after the gun that was used to kill him was traced to a U.S. operation called Fast and the Furious, where agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives leaked guns into Mexico to trace the flow of weapons.
The case also mentions an incident with another U.S. citizen, Rafael Morales Jr., who was kidnapped on his wedding day along with his uncle and brother. All three of them reportedly died due to asphyxiation after members from the Sinaloa cartel wrapped duct tape around their heads.
The lawsuit also referred to documents that were made public in 2012 as part of an investigation by the U.S. Senate. The documents stated that the bank’s internal controls were ignored and that the bank was cited by one of the drug lords as “the place to launder money.” The claim was, however, disputed by HSBC.
“We are committed to combating financial crime and have taken strict steps to help keep bad actors out of the global financial system,” Robert Sherman, a spokesman for the bank, said, according to Bloomberg.
In addition, HSBC is also named in a lawsuit against several banks filed by families of U.S. soldiers killed or injured during attacks in Iraq, claiming that the companies helped Iran process transfers and finance Hezbollah and other militant groups. The banks have denied wrongdoing.