09 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective



HSBC's Swiss bank in Geneva

Ohio senator Sherrod Brown has said she intends ‘pressing regulators, the IRS, and the DOJ for answers’. Photograph: Felix Clay/Guardian

Senate leader calls for US government’s explanation in wake of HSBC leaks

The claims Catalogue of malpractice laid bare

HSBC files show how Swiss bank helped clients dodge taxes and hide millions

government faces pressure after biggest leak in banking history

Sherrod Brown, leading Democrat on Senate banking committee, asks for full explanation upon learning of allegations in biggest leak in banking history

A leading member of the Senate banking committee is calling on the US government to explain what action it took after receiving a massive cache of leaked data that revealed how the Swiss banking arm of HSBC, the world’s second-largest bank, helped wealthy customers conceal billions of dollars of assets.

The leaked files, which reveal how HSBC advised some clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities, were obtained through an international collaboration of news outlets, including the Guardian, the French daily Le Monde, CBS 60 Minutes and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The files reveal how HSBC’s Swiss private bank colluded with some clients to conceal undeclared “black” accounts from domestic tax authorities across the world and provided services to international criminals and other high-risk individuals. The Guardian has established the leaked data was shared with US regulators five years ago.

“I will be very interested to hear the government’s full explanation of its actions – or lack thereof – upon learning of these allegations in 2010,” said Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, the leading Democrat on the committee.

Referring to previous charges against HSBC, which were resolved in a landmark civil settlement in 2012, he added: “If the charges are true, the same institution that was first caught violating US sanction laws and laundering money for Mexican drug cartels could then escape accountability for promoting widespread evasion of US tax laws. I intend on pressing regulators, the IRS, and the DoJ for answers.”……………………


Angela Merkel and Barack Obama pictured after a 2014 press conference.

Angela Merkel and Barack Obama pictured after a press conference in 2014. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP

Merkel to meet Obama to resolve Ukrainian differences

German and US leaders face potential split over arming of Ukrainian fighters to combat Russian-backed separatists

Angela Merkel will meet Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, as the two leaders aim to resolve a potential split over arming Ukrainian fighters so they can combat Russian-backed separatists.

The German chancellor and the US president will also discuss upcoming talks to revive a peace plan for Ukraine. There has been speculation that the US could send “defensive weapons” to Ukraine, but this has little support among its European allies who fear it could escalate the year-long conflict in east Ukraine.

At issue is Vladimir Putin’s support for the separatists and the Russian president’s seeming revival of a Soviet strategy favoured during the cold war to create a division between the US and its Nato allies, particularly Germany………………


Alabama gay marriage

Tori Sisson holds out her and Shant Wolfe’s wedding rings inside their tent near the Montgomery County courthouse. Photograph: Brynn Anderson/AP

Alabama judge makes last stand against same-sex marriage in state

  • Chief justice Roy Moore attempts to block weddings due to start Monday

  • Judge was removed from post in 2003 over Ten Commandments tablet

Tori Sisson and Shante Wolfe camped in a blue and white tent outside the Montgomery County Courthouse during the early hours of Monday, hugging and talking excitedly of getting married soon.

They hoped to be the first couple to get a marriage license on Monday morning as a federal judge’s order overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage went into effect, making Alabama the 37th state to allow gays and lesbians to wed.



Edward Snowden

‘It is a vindication of Edward Snowden, and all those who put their careers – and even their lives – on the line to ensure the truth was told.’ Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Today is a great victory against GCHQ, the NSA and the surveillance state

Britain and America broke the law by intercepting electronic communications in bulk, and they can no longer claim otherwise

It is a rare thing to bring truth to bear on the most powerful and secretive arm of the state. Never before has the Investigatory Powers Tribunal – the British court tasked with reviewing complaints against the security services – ruled against the government. Not once have the spooks been taken to task for overstepping the lawful boundaries of their conduct. Not a single British spy has been held accountable for mass surveillance, unlawful spying or snooping on private emails and phone calls.

Until today.

Privacy International has spent the past 25 years fighting back against the ever-expanding British surveillance state. Together with our allies, we’ve resisted the snooper’s charter (multiple times), mandatory ID cards and the provision of passenger name records. Yet in June 2013 we were as shocked as everyone else to learn that GCHQ, in collaboration with the NSA, had acquired the capabilities to completely control, monitor, copy, read and analyse the world’s private communications.

It was, until that point, unfathomable that the security services could have so audaciously stretched the boundaries of democratic legitimacy – and could have so severely violated the civil liberties and human rights of not only Britons, but of hundreds of millions of innocent people across the globe.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we learned that GCHQ has access to emails and messages that the NSA siphons off directly and en masse from Google, Skype and Facebook. We discovered that the NSA collects 194m text messages and 5bn location records every day – and GCHQ can read them too. And, of course, we learned that GCHQ is operating a mass surveillance system that, combined with its access to the NSA’s own mass surveillance architecture, means it can read almost anyone’s communications, at any time, without judicial authorisation or any meaningful oversight………………….

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