#SwissLeaks what the media has termed it is a trove of secret documents from HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm that reveals names of account holders and their balances for the year 2006-07. They come from over 200 countries, the total balance over $100 billion. But nowhere has the HSBC Swiss list touched off a more raging political debate than in India.
That’s why to obtain and investigate the Indian names, The Indian Express partnered in a three-month-long global project with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Paris-based Le Monde newspaper. The investigation revealed 1,195 Indian HSBC clients, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the Government in 2011. The new revelation— published as part of a global agreement — is expected to significantly widen the scale and scope of the ongoing probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.
For years, when banks have been caught laundering drug money, they have claimed that they did not know, that they were but victims of sneaky drug dealers and a few corrupt employees. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that a considerable portion of the global banking system is explicitly dedicated to handling the enormous volume of cash produced daily by dope traffickers.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not “demand” from the world’s population which creates the mind destroying drug trade. Rather, it is the world financial oligarchy, looking for massive profits and the destruction of the minds of the population it is determined to dominate, which organized the drug trade. The case of HSBC underscores that point. Serving as the central bank of this global apparatus, is HSBC.
East India Company Origins
The opium trade began in the early 1700s as an official monopoly of the British East India Company, which conquered India, and ran it on behalf of the British Crown and the financiers operating through the City of London. Indian-grown opium became a key component in the trade for tea and silk in China. The East India Company had a thriving business selling British textiles and other manufactured products in India, and selling Chinese silk and tea in Britain. But the Company ran into problems with the opium end of the trade. The influx of opium caused major problems for China, and led the Emperor to issue an edict in 1729 prohibiting opium consumption. Then, in 1757, the Emperor restricted all foreigners and foreign vessels to a trading area in the port city of Canton. A stronger edict in 1799 prohibited the importation and use of opium under penalty of death.
None of this stopped the British from continuing to flood China with opium, creating millions of addicts, but it did cause the East India Company to protect its tea and silk trade by shifting its Chinese opium operations to nominally independent drug runners who bought opium legally from the East India Company in Calcutta, and smuggled it into China. The most prominent of these drug-running firms was Jardine Matheson & Co. It was founded in 1832 by two Scotsmen, William Jardine and James Matheson. Jardine had been a ship’s surgeon with the East India Company, while Matheson was the son of a Scottish baronet. The firm today is controlled by the Keswick family. In 1839, the Chinese Emperor launched an anti-opium offensive, which included the confiscation of all opium stocks in the hands of Chinese and foreign merchants. The merchants put up a fight, but were ultimately forced to concede, turning in their opium stocks after being indemnified against losses by British officials.
In response, however, the British launched a propaganda campaign against China, accusing it of violating Britain’s right to “free trade.” Britain sent its fleet to China, to force the Chinese to capitulate to the opium trade. The action, known as the First Opium War, resulted in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, under which China was forced to not only capitulated to the opium trade, but also agreed to pay reparations to the opium runners and gave the British control of the island of Hong Kong. However, the treaty did not specifically legalize opium, so the British launched a second Opium War, which resulted in the 1856 Treaty of Tientsin, which legitimized the opium trade and opened China up to foreigners even more.
As the opium and other trade with China expanded, Britain’s new territory of Hong Kong became a major imperial commercial center. The opium dealers gathered together to form a bank, the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, as the financial flagship of the British opium trade. Over time, the bank—now known as HSBC—would extend its reach into the drug fields of the Middle East and Ibero-America, as befitting its role as the financial kingpin of Dope, Inc.
Role of Secret Societies
In 1783 Lord Shelbourne launched the Chinese opium trade with Scottish merchants from the East India Company and members of the House of Windsor-allied Knights of St. John Jerusalem.
Shelbourne’s chief propagandist was Adam Smith who worked for East India Company, which emerged from the slave-trading Levant Company and later became known as Chatham House, home to the powerful Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA). In 1776 the high seas pirate Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, which became the bible of international capitalism.
In the Far East the British organized the Chinese Triad Society, also known as the Society of Heaven and Earth, to smuggle their opium. Beginning in 1788 the Freemason Grand Lodge of England established lodges in China, one of which was the Triad Society. Another was known as the Order of the Swastika.
In 1839 William Jardine- a Canton-based opium trafficker- steered Britain into the first Opium War after Chinese officials confiscated his stash. The second Opium War lasted from 1858-1860. Lord Palmerston commanded both expeditions for the Brits. He was also the High Priest of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the British Empire.
Throughout the 19th century the British families of Matheson, Keswick, Swire, Dent, Inchcape, Baring and Rothschild controlled the Chinese heroin traffic. The Inchcape’s and Baring’s Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company (PONC) transported the dope around the world.
To the US West Coast, the families brought Chinese coolies to build JP Morgan’s railroads, slave laborers who were kidnapped (shanghaied) by the Triads. The Triads came along too, setting up opium dens in San Francisco and Vancouver and using a network of Chinatowns as a channel for heroin. This network exists today. To the US East Coast the families brought African slaves and cotton. These same families built plantations and became kings of southern cotton on the backs of shanghaied Africans.
The American families Perkins, Astor and Forbes made millions off the opium trade. The Perkins’ founded Bank of Boston, which is today known as Credit Suisse First Boston. The Perkins and Morgan families endowed Harvard University. William Hathaway Forbes was a director at Hong Kong Shanghai Bank shortly after it was founded in 1866. John Murray Forbes was the US agent for the Barings banking family, which financed most of the early drug trade. The Forbes family heirs later launched Forbes magazine. Steve Forbes ran for President in 1996. John Jacob Astor invested his opium proceeds in Manhattan real estate and worked for British intelligence. The Astor family home in London sits opposite Chatham House.
These families launched the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC) after the second Opium War as a repository for their opium proceeds. HSBC, a subsidiary of the London-based HSBC Holdings, today prints 75% of Hong Kong’s currency, while the British Cecil Rhodes-founded Standard Chartered Bank prints the rest. HSBC’s Hong Kong headquarters sits next to a massive Masonic Temple.
Freemasonry is a highly secretive society, making it an ideal vehicle for global drugs and arms trafficking. According to 33rd Degree Mason Manly Hall, “Freemasonry is a fraternity within a fraternity – an outer organization concealing an inner brotherhood of the elect…the one visible and the other invisible. The visible society is a splendid camaraderie of ‘free and accepted’ men enjoined to devote themselves to ethical, educational, fraternal, patriotic and humanitarian concerns. The invisible society is a secret and most august fraternity whose members are dedicated to the service of an arcanum arcandrum (sacred secret).”
Wealth derived from selling this Chinese opium during British colonial rule, helped build many landmarks on India’s west coast. The Mahim Causeway, The Sir JJ School of Art, David Sassoon Library and Flora Fountain, landmarks in modern Mumbai, were built by prominent Parsi and Jewish traders from profits made by a flourishing opium and later cotton trade with China.
Prominent families from Mumbai’s past, names that adorn today’s famous institutions such as the Wadia’s, Tata’s, Jejeebhoy’s, Readymoney’s, Cama’s and Sassoon’s sold opium to China through the British. By the end of the nineteenth century, when the opium trade went bust, cotton from India’s western state of Gujarat, which had already developed strong trade links with Canton profited. The Paris’s ploughed profits from the trade with the Chinese back into India, setting up several schools, hospitals and banks. Historical records prove that some of India’s prominent Parsi traders at the time, were founders of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) founded in 1865.
It is this deadly opium empire that Gandhiji was very much conscious about and spoke out against for which he was jailed in 1921 by India’s British rulers for “undermining the revenue”. Having seen generations of Chinese youths rendered docile and passive Gandhiji was concerned over opium and its deadly effects on India which is clear from his letters. These opium production activities ran until 1924 in India and were stopped with the heroic efforts of Mahatma Gandhi who first agitated to remove opium production from India and destruction of China using Indian soil. Finally the British transferred the entire production to Afghanistan in 1924 handing the production to southern Afghani tribals which after 90 years became the golden crescent of opium production. Though the production is in the hands of Afghan tribals the distribution finance market control is still exercised by the same old British business houses or their proxies.
Afghan Opium for Bankers and Terrorists
There is a general impression that Afghanistan has always been the center of opium production. In fact, it has not. Prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979, opium production in Afghanistan was less than 1,000 tons; that grew to 8,200 tons (based on conservative UN Office on Drugs and Crime/UNODC figures) in 2008. Throughout this period, Afghanistan was in a state of war. Following the Soviet invasion, the anti-Soviet powers, particularly, the US, UK, and Saudi Arabia, began generating larger amounts of drug money to finance much of the war to defeat the Soviets. Since 1989, after the Soviet withdrawal, there has been an all-out civil war in Afghanistan, as the US-UK-Saudi-created mujahideen dipped further into the opium/heroin money.
What was happening in Afghanistan during this period that caused opium production to soar to those levels? History shows that the US invasion in 2001 came close to wiping out the Taliban forces; the Afghan people, at least at that point in time, because of the Pakistani-Saudi links to the Taliban and the oppressive nature of the Wahhabi-indoctrinated regime, supported the invading American and NATO forces. That began to change in 2005.
The year 2005 is important in this context, since one of the most damning parts of the US Senate report details HSBC’s relationship with the Saudi-based Al Rajhi Bank, a member of Osama bin Laden’s “Golden Chain” of important al-Qaeda financiers. The HSBC-Al Rajhi relationship has spanned decades; perhaps that is why, even when HSBC’s own internal compliance offices asked that it be terminated in 2005, and even when the US government discovered hard evidence of Al Rajhi’s relationship with terrorism, HSBC continued to do business with the bank until 2010.
In fact, the report said, Al Rajhi’s links to terrorism were confirmed in 2002, when US agents searched the offices of a Saudi non-profit US-designated terrorist organization, Benevolence International Foundation. In that raid, agents uncovered a CD-ROM listing the names of financiers in bin Laden’s Golden Chain. One of those names was Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, a founder of Al Rajhi bank.
Recently an operation by German Customs official revealed that the British Queen financed Osama Bin Laden. German officials in an operation raided two containers passing through Hamburg Port and seized 14,000 documents establishing that Osama bin Laden was funded by UK Queen’s bank Coutts, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
HSBC & 26/11 Mumbai Attacks
Why did HSBC not terminate its links with the Al Rajhi in 2005? The answer lies in what was then put in place in Afghanistan to generate large amounts of cash. When it comes to opium/ heroin and offshore banks, Britain rules supreme. In 2005, poppy fields in southern Afghanistan began to bloom, and it became evident to the bankers and the geo-politicians of Britain and the US that cash to support the financial centers and the terrorists could be made right there.
It was announced on Jan. 27, 2006 in the British Parliament that a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be replacing the US troops in Helmand province as part of Operation Herrick. The British 16 Air Assault Brigade would make up the core of the force. British bases were then located in the districts of Sangin, Lashkar Gah, and Gereshk.
As of Summer 2006, Helmand was one of the provinces involved in Operation Mountain Thrust, a combined NATO/Afghan mission targeted at Taliban fighters in the south of the country. In July 2006, the offensive essentially stalled in Helmand, as NATO (primarily British) and Afghan troops were forced to take increasingly defensive positions under heavy insurgent pressure. In response, British troop levels in the province were increased, and new encampments were established in Sangin and Gereshk. In Autumn 2006, some 8,000 British troops began to reach “cessation of hostilities” agreements with local Taliban forces around the district centers where they had been stationed earlier in the Summer, and it is then that drug-money laundering began in earnest.
This drug money, at least a good part of it, is generated in this area with the help of Dawood Ibrahim, who also played a role in helping the Mumbai attackers by giving them the use of his existing network in Mumbai. At the time, Ibrahim worked on behalf of the British, and ran his operation through the British-controlled emirate of Dubai. Drugs came into Dubai through Dawood’s “mules,” protected by the Pakistani ISI and British MI6; the dope was shipped in containers which carried equipment sent there for “repair” from Kandahar and elsewhere in southern Afghanistan. British troops controlled Helmand province, where 53% of Afghanistan’s gargantuan 8,200 tons of opium was produced in 2007.
The drugs were converted, and still are today, to cash in Dubai, where Dawood maintains a palatial mansion, similar to the one he maintains in Karachi. Dubai is a tax-free island-city, and a major offshore banking center. The most common reason for opening an offshore bank account is the flexibility that comes with it.
With the development of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is the latest free-trade zone to be set up there, flexible and unrestricted offshore banking has become big business. Many of the world’s largest banks already have significant presence in Dubai – big names such as Abbey National Offshore, HSBC Offshore, ABN Amro, ANZ Grindlays, Banque Paribas, Banque de Caire, Barclays, Dresdner, and Merrill Lynch, all have offices in the Emirate already.
In addition to Dubai, most of the offshore banks are located in former British colonies, and all of them are involved in money laundering. In other words, the legitimization of cash generated from drug sales and other smuggled illegitimate goods into the “respectable banks” is the modus operandi of these offshore banks. The drugs that Dawood’s mules carry are providing a necessary service for the global financial system, as well as for the terrorists who are killing innocents all over the world.
In December of 2007, this Britain-run drug-money-laundering and terrorist-networking operation was about to be exposed when Afghan President Hamid Karzai learned that two British MI6 agents were working under the cover of the United Nations and the European Union behind his back, to finance and negotiate with the Taliban. He expelled them from Afghanistan. One of them, a Briton, Michael Semple, was the acting head of the EU mission in Afghanistan and is widely known as a close confidant of Britain’s Ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles. Semple now masquerades as an academic analyst of Afghanistan, and was associated with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center. The second man, an Irishman, Mervin Patterson, was the third-ranking UN official in Afghanistan at the time that he was summarily expelled.
These MI6 agents were entrusted by London with the task of using Britain’s 7,700 troops in the opium-infested, Pushtun-dominated, southern province of Helmand to train 2,000 Afghan militants, ostensibly to “infiltrate” the enemy and “seek intelligence” about the lethal arms of the real Taliban. Karzai rightly saw it as Britain’s efforts to develop a lethal group within Afghanistan, a new crop of terrorists.
The drug money thus generated to fund the financial centers and terrorists through HSBC was also responsible for ongoing terrorist attacks that have destabilized most of South Asia. The most important of these was the massive attack on Mumbai.
The mode used to launder such drug money is through diamonds. A 2003 Report assessed various alternative financing mechanisms that could be used to facilitate money laundering and or terrorist financing. Trading in commodities, remittance systems, and currency were assessed on each of their abilities to earn, be moved, and store value. Diamonds were the only alternative financial device that fit into all of these assessment criteria.
Diamonds can be vulnerable for misuse for money laundering and terrorist financing purposes because they can transfer value and ownership quickly, often, with a minimal audit trail. They provide flexibility and an easy transportation of value.
Top diamond traders of the country, several of whom are now settled abroad, figure on what the media calls as the #SwissList, with mostly Mumbai addresses given. Many persons on the list are Gujarati diamond merchants with offices all over world having roots in Palanpur.
However their involvement in not just limited to money laundering. Almost 6 months before 26/11 2008 Mumbai Attacks the Financial Intelligence Unit of India (FIU-IND) (the central national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions) was already tracking the diamond industry for suspicious activities by terrorists.
“A year ago, some people from Mumbai began purchasing diamonds worth crores of rupees. When the industry tried to trace the traders, they turned out to be non-existent,” said Vanani.
The FIU traced all foreign transactions of Surat’s diamond industry, especially those emanating from Belgium. It found that a great deal of money was being invested by terrorist groups.
However in May 2014 eight of these Belgium based diamond dealers were given a clean chit by the Income Tax department in the black money case. The I-T department said a probe was initiated against the eight individuals, but there was no proof of tax evasion by them. Why is the Government reluctant in disclosing Black Money related data; be it NDA and even UPA before it ?
From the Far East to the Middle East to Ibero-America to India, everywhere the drug trade is flourishing, you will find HSBC. It may not handle the dope, but it does handle the money, making sure that the “citizens above suspicion” who run the empire get their cut of the proceeds. Now HSBC has been caught red-handed laundering money in the U.S., India, China, Argentina almost everywhere the sun shined through the colonies. This is a bank which has abused us, assaulted our people, and violated the law with abandon. Isn’t it time we set an example and revoke its charter to do business here in India?
Report by Drug Trafficking & Narco-Terrorism Department of GreatGameIndia. Read the extensively researched report on the History of Narco-Terrorism in India only in this exclusive Apr-Jun 2016 Narco-Terrorism Special issue of GreatGameIndia – India’s only quarterly magazine on Geopolitics & International Relations.
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