Case Study
HSBC - Article 6 ICCPR (right to life)

Right + Threaty: Article 6, ICCPR
Sector: Banking sector
Country: USA
Right to life

Following a US government investigation, HSBC Bank USA admitted in 2012 it had violated US laws regarding money laundering and financial crimes. The bank reached a settlement with the Department of Justice for US$1.9 billion. Neither HSBC nor any individual was prosecuted over the matter. The violations involved the laundering of at least US$881 million in illicit drug money linked to, among others, drug cartels from Mexico between 2006 and 2010.  

Drug cartels are heavily dependent on money laundering because of their reliance on cash transactions. Furthermore, the majority of gun crimes in Mexico are committed with weapons manufactured and sold in the US, requiring access to US currency. Accordingly, money laundering must be curbed in order to truly combat the illicit drug trade and its attendant violence.

From 2006 to 2010 — the first four years of an escalated drug war between Mexican authorities and the country’s drug cartels, and the period during which US$881 million in narco cash was laundered through HSBC subsidiaries — more than 28,000 people died in drug related violence in Mexico, according to official estimates. A failure to adequately implement anti-money laundering controls fuels atrocities that violate the right to life.

In 2016, some of the families of people killed by Mexican cartels filed suit against HSBC in a Texas court for allegedly providing “continuous and systematic support” for certain Mexican cartels.