LONDON — British trade minister Stephen Green admitted Tuesday that he "regrets" issues over HSBC's role in alleged money laundering during his time in charge of the global banking giant.
Lord Green has faced fierce political pressure after US lawmakers last week accused London-based HSBC of failing to apply anti-laundering rules, benefiting Iran, terrorists and drug dealers.
The main opposition Labour party has called on Green to explain his role at the bank. The former HSBC boss replied to shadow Treasury minister Chris Leslie in a letter published on Tuesday.
"With regards to the bank's efforts to address its AML (anti-money laundering) and (OFAC) Office of Foreign Assets Control compliance issues, HSBC has expressed its regret that there were failures of implementation in these areas, and I share that regret," Green wrote in the letter.
Green spent three years as HSBC chief executive before being appointed chairman in 2006. He remained chairman until he was made trade minister by British Prime Minister David Cameron two years ago.
Last week, a US Senate report found that HSBC had allowed affiliates in countries such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh to move billions of dollars in suspect funds into the United States without adequate controls.
Lawmakers said money laundered through HSBC-linked accounts benefited Mexican drug lords and terrorist networks, and skirted US sanctions on Iran.
Green added on Tuesday that the Senate's report "demonstrates that senior management was engaged with the regulators throughout",
However, he also noted that it would be "not appropriate to comment on specifics" of the allegations.
He continued: "I would add that I am proud to have worked for HSBC for 28 years, culminating in my time as chairman.
"HSBC have always sought to do the right thing and, when things go wrong, worked hard to put them right. I have sought to embody these values in my own work and to react appropriately to emerging issues both as chief executive officer and chairman of HSBC."
But Labour's shadow financial secretary Chris Leslie argued that the letter had "failed" to give the full details.
"It is right that Lord Green has now expressed regret for the failures of HSBC to prevent money laundering during his time as chief executive and chairman," Leslie said in response.
"But his letter totally fails to address the detailed questions about what he knew and when about these very serious issues.
"As a British Minister, an adviser to George Osborne on banking and a member of the Cabinet committee on banking reform, he is accountable first and foremost to parliament.
"He cannot and should not hide behind 'continuing discussions between HSBC and the US authorities' as a reason for failing to answer questions.
Leslie added: "He must now come to parliament and explain what he knew, when he knew it and what action he took."
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