British banks 'processed dirty cash from £65bn Russian money laundering operation'

The allegations will be embarrassing for HSBC which five years ago paid $1.9 billion to settle a US money-laundering investigation Getty Images

Almost $740m (£598m) from a money laundering operation linking Russian criminals to the Russian government was processed by British high street banks, it has been reported.

British lawmakers tabled an urgent parliamentary question after newspaper reports said that United Kingdom banks including HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Coutts and Standard Chartered were named as being among those that did not turn away suspicious money transfers.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project said that reporters from the group and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in Moscow obtained bank records showing that funds were transferred worldwide via 112 bank accounts in Eastern Europe.

Anti-corruption groups have warned money-laundering controls are not tight enough as United Kingdom banks were entangled in "funny money" claims. The case is about 740 million dollars.

The scheme, which ran from 2010 to 2014, allowed £15bn to be moved out of Russian Federation.

The Guardian said it has seen documents suggesting at least USD20.00 billion was moved out of Russian Federation between 2010 and 2014 via 70,000 banking transactions, of which 1,920 went through United Kingdom banks.

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Laundered money ended up at several big name companies, including South Korea's Samsung, Swedish telecom company Ericsson, toolmaker Black & Decker and Total Golf Construction Inc., which says it has renovated a Donald Trump golf course in the Grenadines. The document seen by the newspaper revealed that some $20 billion were moved out of Russian Federation in 2010-2014.

It says the 17 banks include HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds but British-registered companies also had a role.

According to investigators, the scheme operated as follows - after a ruling by Moldovan courts, Russian companies paid sums owed after a company in Russia has declared insolvency on its debt to another firm after a fictitious transaction. Other banks, including Deutsche Bank, have since been fined for lax controls on money laundering schemes. The bank said it has systems in place to monitor transactions, flagging those that may be suspicious.

A spokesperson for HSBC said: "This case highlights the need for greater information sharing between the public and private sectors, each of whom holds important information the other does not".

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "This scandal needs to be investigated in full by the National Crime Agency, and the Government must ensure they have all the resources and support needed".

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