Pity the City. America is on a witch hunt against London's financial center, ruthlessly exploiting a few rotten banking apples to pursue their own political scheme, or so British MPs would have you believe.

In a bid to topple London as the world's financial capital (and replace it with New York) U.S. Federal and New York state prosecutors have singled out British banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays for particular attention over alleged and proven dirty money laundering and rate rigging scandals.

It's not fair, they say, U.S. banks were doing it too.

"America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave and, every now and then, just a tiny bit high-handed in her treatment of other nations," London's mayor Boris Johnson wrote in an opinion piece for the Spectator magazine.

"...you can't help wondering whether all this beating up of British banks and bankers is starting to shade into protectionism," he continued.

 "And you can't help thinking it might actually be at least partly motivated by jealousy of London's financial sector - a simple desire to knock a rival center."

The curiously coiffured one is not alone in hinting at a bit of Brit-bashing.

Labour Party MP John Mann went a step further on Wednesday, accusing Washington of actively pursuing British banks as part of a plan to swing business state-side.

"I think it's a concerted effort that's been organized at the top of the U.S. government," the BBC quoted Mann as saying.

"I think this is Washington trying to win a commercial battle to have trading from London shifted to New York."

Fellow MP Kwasi Kwarteng also joined in the whining, telling the Financial Times: "Some of these investigations are politically driven."

"I wonder if the New York regulator is... looking for a high-profile scalp."

What's more likely, according to the Telegraph, is that British banks have badly underestimated the seriousness with which the Americans take their anti-money laundering (AML) investigations in the wake of 9/11.

Like HSBC a month ago, Standard Chartered is alleged to have put the pursuit of profit ahead of complying with America's AML laws, the Telegraph's Richard Blackden wrote. No longer a matter of consumer compliance or even just a weapon against drug dealers, AML was a new front in the battle against terrorists and funders of terrorism who wanted to move dollars through America's financial system.

"The biggest difference between US banks and foreign banks is that the US banks have a greater understanding of how important these issues are to regulators," says Ross Delton, a former regulator who now advises companies on AML. "It was not just about ramping up after September 11, it was a whole new landscape. The US takes this stuff very, very seriously."

Like a scolded child, it looks like the Brits need to stop whining and start investigating before they really do lose their pre-eminent financial standing.

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