Photo: HSBC

By JORGE ANTONIO ROCHA

According to a recent U.S. multi-agency investigation, Ramón García Gibson, a current high-ranking official at Mexico’s Treasury Secretariat (Hacienda) and a former employee of HSBC Bank in Mexico, was responsible for allowing that financial institution to become the country’s leading bank of choice for organized crime.

HSBC, a British-based multinational investment bank, allegedly allowed Mexican and Colombian criminal groups to use its branches in Mexico as a conduit to allocate and launder money, according to the El Dorado Task Force, composed of agents from the U.S. Departments of Justice, U.S. Treasury Department and Homeland Security.

Between 2006 and 2010, the bank is believed to be popular among drug cartels because of its lax restrictions and its tendency to facilitate shady financial movements.

The investigation specifically named García Gibson multiple times.

Then-president of the committee in charge of preventing such crimes, García Gibson was subsequently found guilty of handling and securing money derived from illegal activities.

García Gibson callously ignored government reports advising the bank to close accounts of clients under U.S. federal investigation and would continue to operate with the assets and investments of alleged organized crime groups.

At the time, both the United States and Mexico fined the financial institution $1.9 billion and $27.5 million, respectively.

García Gibson is currently serving in the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and is responsible for the prevention of illicit funds and money laundering activities, the same task he was charged with performing at HSBC.

In 2007, López Obrador, who had lost a 2006 bid for the presidency, made public the fact that HSBC had shut down an account of his that had been opened for donations from supporters of his left-leaning political movement.

At that time, AMLO qualified the incident as political revenge.

The man who closed the account was, in fact, García Gibson.

AMLO campaigned on and has prided his presidency on an anti-corruption platform, although by many accounts the problem has only exacerbated under his watch.

According to a recent Bloomberg survey, one in three Mexicans say that they have had to pay bribes for basic services in the last 12 months, and graft took a whopping 9 percent bite out of the nation’s GDP in 2019.

The fact that a current official of López Obrador’s presidency is linked to organize crime has raised serious concerns about his performance regarding ending impunity in the country.

AMLO has vowed to investigate the case of García Gibson.

…Oct.  12, 2020

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