UPDATE 1-HSBC sued by families of victims in drug money laundering case

miércoles 10 de febrero de 2016 07:19 GYT

(Adds statement from bank)

Feb 9 (Reuters) - HSBC has been sued by the families of U.S. citizens murdered by drug gangs in Mexico, claiming the bank let cartels launder billions of dollars to operate their business.

The lawsuit alleges that by participating in the money laundering scheme of the cartels, HSBC knowingly contributed directly to the international drug and trafficking trade, including the "brutal acts" that accompanied it, during the period of 2010 to 2011.

The London-based bank, which was already being monitored for its involvement in money laundering schemes, had paid nearly $2 billion in penalties in December 2012 to resolve charges that it failed to stop hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money from flowing through the bank from Mexico, and it promised to fix the problems.

The U.S. government had chosen former New York prosecutor Michael Cherkasky to monitor HSBC's compliance remediation efforts. His reports have cited issues with the bank's progress to date.

HSBC said it intended to defend itself "vigorously" against the legal claims.

"We are committed to combating financial crime and have taken strict steps to help keep bad actors out of the global financial system," the bank said in a statement.

The case is Zapata v. HSBC Holdings Plc, 16-cv-00030 in the U.S. District Court of Southern District of Texas. (Reporting by Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru and Sinead Cruise in London; Editing by Sunil Nair and Louise Heavens)