Lucy Komisar: I started writing about offshore, because I discovered that whenever anything nefarious was going on, the bad guys were putting their money offshore. Using secret companies that were listed offshore in nominee names, meaning not their own names. I got interested, because that’s how places, people like Marcos in the Philippines, Duvalier in Haiti, Mobutu in Zaire. That’s how they were looting their country. I found out that, because when I went to those places to talk to people in the opposition movements, they told me that the money had been looted by the dictator, and it was all in Swiss banks. Nobody’s writing about Swiss banks at the time, and I realized that this was the dark underbelly of the secret, dirty financial system. It was something to support dictators, and to support drug traffickers, and financial fraudsters. I thought, why does this exist? It’s like allowing crooks to go around with Tommy guns and think, well, it’s really okay that they have this. It’s not. Why does it exist? Because governments allow it. Because the people who put governments in power are using this.
Lucy Komisar: Actually, the CIA has used this system. In Iran-Contra we discovered that some of the money that was being moved around by the CIA, it was going through offshore banks. Now we come to today, and the system is flourishing. In HSBC eight years ago, there was a report of the senate, in a Senator Levin study, investigation, that HSBC was running offshore accounts for the central bank of Angola, run by the dictator of Angola, so that they could hide any bad accounts from international investigators. Then we come back today, or more recently, to an investigation into Browder, which I have been doing. We find out that HSBC is up to its neck, because HSBC was the trustee for Browder, that is Browder officially didn’t own his companies, they were owned in trust by HSBC. The money could be moved without anybody knowing that this is Browder’s money.
Lee Stranahan: Let me just break in for one second. In fact, when Browder lost entry back into Russia, he actually used the head of HSBC to try to appeal to Russia to let him back in. Is that correct?
Lucy Komisar: Yeah. I mean these people work together. HSBC makes money from all kinds of crooks and people trying to hide their money. The shells that owned the Browder companies in Russia, they were both Cyprus shells called Glendora and Kone. They were “owned” by HSBC Private Bank Guernsey’s trust. They weren’t even owned by him. Finally, when the money got back to Guernsey, which is an offshore center, part of the British system. That’s where it could get moved into one of Browder’s other offshore companies. One of them, for example, was called Berkeley, and that was owned by Mossack Fonseca of Panama papers fame. It’s all an offshore network.
Lee Stranahan: Now let me ask one question, because we only have a little bit of time left. We got to bring you back on, because there’s other stuff we want to talk about. We lost a lot of time with tech problems.
Lucy Komisar: Yeah.
Lee Stranahan: These HSBC things that were involved, these offshore companies, if that had come out, could that have violated the restrictions that HSBC was under? In other words, could they have gotten in trouble based on the … They had already had an agreement with the US that they were not going to get involved in shenanigans.
Lucy Komisar: Yeah, but these aren’t considered shenanigans. These are acceptable by our government. You know what they could very easily do, the US system is run through the treasury department. If they say a bank, such as a bank in North Korea, or a bank in Syria, is a bad bank, or it’s a threat to national security, they can block that bank from the American financial system. If you don’t have access, you’re in big trouble. Why don’t they do this to all the banks that are in offshore jurisdictions, where you can hide the name of the real owner of the bank? They don’t do that, because they want to have that happen. It’s not that, did they know that HSBC was doing bad stuff. Of course, they knew, but they think it’s just fine. It’s part of the, it’s the dark part of the financial system that most people don’t know about. It is permitted, and it’s part of how … It was essential to how William Browder operated his tax evasion system.
Lucy Komisar: The money went from a Russian shell company to a Cyprus shell company, through this HSB system in Guernsey, and finally ended up in a Mossack Fonseca Panama papers company owned by Browder.