I am shocked, shocked, shocked! Standard Chartered has been accused by US financial authorities of hiding US$250 billion worth of transactions with Iran in the past decade. The allegations come on the heels of HSBC's admission that it laundered money for Mexican drug cartels and pariah states, including Iran. New York State's financial watchdog said StanChart's rogue behaviour made 'the US financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes'.
Wow, if only that were true! Here's what I read from two reports on CBS and in The New York Times in late December 2010. In the past decade, the US Treasury Department allowed almost 4,000 US companies to do business worth billions of dollars with countries under US sanctions, including Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
Nearly 10,000 exemption licences were granted to companies both large and small, including General Electric, Kraft Foods, Pepsi and Wrigley, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons. But the products sold or exported include, according to the Times, 'cigarettes, Wrigley's gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports equipment'. One can imagine how Diet Pepsi and chewing gum are essential to a survival diet. The American Pop Corn Company sold its popular Jolly Time popcorn to Sudan and Iran, citing humanitarianism! Under such exemptions, raw materials have also been shipped to North Korea. Another beneficiary of an exemption was a Japanese subsidiary of Citibank, which allowed it to confirm a letter of credit for transactions involving Irisl, an Iranian state-owned shipping line; precisely the kind of bank transactions the US government has warned against.
The business of US sanctions is business, under Uncle Sam's protection. StanChart will get off with stiff fine, but nothing it cannot afford.
Professional extortionists, though, must be looking on with envy. As for HSBC and StanChart, oh, how they must long for the good old days when the Union flag ruled the world and London dictated who was a partner and who was a rogue!