March 19, 2013 - 09:14 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Banking giant HSBC, which was hit with a U.S. fine for money laundering last year, is facing fresh accusations of illegal activity in Argentina, BBC News reported.
Argentina has alleged that the bank used "fake receipts" to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion, and launder 392 million pesos ($77mln). The country's tax authority said it had filed criminal charges against HSBC.
HSBC said that it would cooperate with the investigation, adding that the allegations were "of great concern".
"We are committed to working cooperatively with authorities to ensure a thorough review and appropriate resolution of the matter," said Lyssette Bravo, a spokeswoman for HSBC.
Last year, HSBC agreed to pay U.S. authorities $1.9 billion in a settlement over money laundering, the largest paid in such a case.
Argentina laid out its case against HSBC late on Monday, March 18.
"On the basis of what's been investigated so far, in six months we've recorded 392 million pesos in fraudulent transactions, generated by evasion and money laundering," said Ricardo Echegaray, head of Argentina's tax agency.
Echegaray added that HSBC also helped clients evade taxes on an additional 224 million pesos.
"We hope to recover what is due and see the courts apply an appropriate penalty," he said.
Money laundering is the process of disguising the proceeds of crime so that the money cannot be linked to the wrongdoing.
HSBC, which has previously admitted to having poor money laundering controls, has been taking steps to tighten its operations.
Last year, it said that it had spent $290 million on improving its systems to prevent money laundering.
At the same time, it also appointed a former U.S. official, Bob Werner, to work as its head of financial crime compliance, a new position the bank has created.
The bank said that he will be responsible for beefing up its anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance systems.
Werner was previously the head of the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency responsible for enforcing the U.S. sanctions on countries, including Iran.