Back in August 2007 I wrote this:
My application to open an offshore bank account with HSBC has fallen flat on its face. In order for somebody resident in Russia to open an account on the Isle of Man, they need to have an opening balance of 60,000 Pounds Sterling, which despite my status as cigar-puffing oilman, I do not have. The reason why they demand such a high opening balance for Russian residents (the normal requirement is 5,000 Pounds Sterling) is because of the risk of “money laundering”. And that is about as detailed an explanation as I could get.
What is interesting is that HSBC do not advertise this requirement anywhere, it is simply a decision which gets made at the application stage. Personally, I think the explanation is bollocks. Anyone wanting to launder money from Russia is probably not going to be doing so in small amounts, and I can’t see how a 60,000 GBP opening balance is going to do anything to discourage such activities. If anything, putting a maximum balance on the account would be more of a control on money laundering rather than a minimum balance.
And there is a follow-up story to that which I didn’t write about.
A couple of years later I was in London and opened up my RBSi account, thus getting shot of Barclays once and for all. But just next door to the RBS branch was HSBC, so I thought I’d pop in there to see if I could open an account while I was in the area. As with RBSi, HSBC has a requirement that you submit a copy of your passport notarised by either somebody in an embassy or somebody in a bank branch (both kind of hard to achieve in Sakhalin). But whereas RBSi would notarise my passport copy in a branch, hand it back to me, and then allow me to submit this along with my (lengthy) application form all at once later, HSBC insisted that they could not let me leave their branch with a copy of my passport which they had notarised. Apparently I had to fill all the forms out and then bring them all together to the branch, where they would notarise my passport and send the whole lot to the Isle of Man or wherever themselves. I didn’t have the completed forms with me, assuming I could do that later. When I asked them why they had to post everything themselves and why I was not allowed to take the notarised copy of my passport with me, I got a barrage of sanctimonious bollocks about “policies” and “fraud” and “money laundering”. I was leaving the next day, so I told them to shove it up their arse and walked out, and haven’t crossed the threshold of HSBC since.
I got a similar run-around by Barclays. They insisted that I had to turn up in person with my passport to do this, that, or the other all in the name of preventing money laundering, and gave me pompous lectures on how seriously they took all this.
But it was all bollocks. Every time I read of a Nigerian who has been caught embezzling millions, and sometimes billions, of looted monies, the cash is inevitably routed through a British bank with a high-street name. And this:
A US Senate probe has disclosed how lax controls at Europe’s largest bank left it vulnerable to being used to launder dirty money from around the world.
The report into HSBC, released ahead of a Senate hearing on Tuesday, says huge sums of Mexican drug money almost certainly passed through the bank.
Suspicious funds from Syria, the Cayman Islands, Iran and Saudi Arabia also passed through the British bank.
Because of course, and what is so blindingly obvious, is that these banks are quite happy to throw the “know your customer” regulations in the bin as soon as the sums of money involved are high enough. Yes, they give self-righteous lectures to ordinary people with salaries who want to open a basic account and make them jump through all kinds of hoops (including making them come in person), but a Mexican wearing bandoliers, a droopy black moustache, and carrying a suitcase bulging with bloody dollar bills gets VIP service.
I hate these fuckers. I now bank with the Swiss who, although they might be happy to do business with the dodgiest characters in the world, at least don’t pretend otherwise and make life a misery for the “little people”. I hope the CEO gets the electric chair.