A former HSBC Holdings Plc banker was found guilty of money laundering, but cleared of related drug charges in a French trial of four brothers accused of operating a sophisticated ring to distribute drug money to wealthy clients.
Nessim El Maleh, a former director at HSBC Private Bank Suisse in Geneva, was fined €200,000 (US$229,000) by a Paris criminal court on Friday. His brother Meyer, who ran a wealth-management firm, was sentenced to six years in prison and fined €1 million after judges said he was the mastermind of the scheme. He now faces an arrest warrant.
The court rejected the drug-related charges after ruling that the family had faced similar allegations in Switzerland covered by double jeopardy rules.
“We considered that he had been already judged for facts that cover in their entirety the charge related to laundering money stemming from drug trafficking,” Judge Bruno Deblois said on Friday. Still, Meyer “is found guilty of taking part in an organised scam to launder money”. The court came to similar conclusions concerning Nessim.
The two men’s older brother, Mardoche, who was accused of distributing as much as €12 million between 2010 and 2012 in bags full of cash to the owners of the offshore accounts, received a three-year sentence, two of which were suspended. Nessim and a fourth brother, Albert, also got suspended jail sentences.
France has been cracking down on tax fraud operated via Switzerland with the conviction of a former minister and a trial against UBS Group started earlier this month. The affair is one of the highest profile white-collar cases in Paris since the trial of former Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel engrossed the country a decade ago.
During the Paris trial, Nessim blamed the scheme on his brother Meyer and said he believed the money was linked to tax evasion, not drugs. While Meyer answered investigator’s questions during the probe he is now in Switzerland and did not attend the trial.