Authoritative governments? Check. Wealthy landlords? Check. The rich and powerful dictating law and order? Check. Any historian will tell you how familiar this sounds but there is just one thing missing from a medieval feudal age society; the peasants.
Well I’m sorry to inform that we are the peasants, from myself sitting at my computer in my room in my parents semi-detached three bedroom house to the local butcher down the road and to my policeman next door. Of course, these days we do not have to deal with witch hunts or torture tools, we do not have our dentists performing the role of doctors. Our lives, as peasants, are considerably easier, but have we entered into an age of a different kind of feudalism, a Neo-Feudalism maybe?
It seems that in today’s western society banks and big business have taken it upon themselves to fulfill the role of both the nobility and the clergy. Banks and bankers can seemingly do no wrong and big businesses, from Amazon to Starbucks, are worshiped throughout our media.
The problems occur when rules and laws are not applied evenly. The new nobles: the banks and bankers get away with murder, literally. We now know for a fact that banks such as HSBC have directly supported terrorism and drug smuggling through laundered money. In the United Kingdom, and I imagine in most western countries, if a normal upstanding member of society, or in other words a peasant, was to be directly involved in the supply and production of drugs he could likely face life imprisonment, but what do you suppose our modern day nobility received? Well, since the revelations surrounding HSBCs Swiss subsidiary came under public scrutiny in 2012, the bank has been found to have laundered hundreds of billions of pounds, it has helped clients dodge millions of pounds in taxes and has supported Mexican drug lords and Russian gangsters, drug lords and gangsters who have gone on to commit a wide range of atrocities including murder.
CEO of HSBC Stuart Gulliver has since declared the structure of HSBC “not fit for purpose.” This brings us back to HSBCs punishment, well in total the bank was fined £1.2 billion, this figure was not even 10% of the banks’ profits in that year. Furthermore not a single individual person involved in the crime was fined or jailed despite being complicit in the murders of thousands of people.
The former director of public prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald QC, said when discussing HSBC: “It seems clear, from the evidence we have seen, that there exists credible evidence that HSBC Swiss and/or its employees have engaged over many years in systematic and profitable collusion in serious criminal activity against the exchequers of a number of countries.”
“It is inescapable that this investigation should have included a rigorous inquiry to establish whether there was any criminal complicity on the part of HSBC Holdings plc in the UK into this category of wrongdoing on the part of its Swiss subsidiary. In our view, any sufficient evidence of such complicity would be virtually certain to warrant prosecution in the public interest.”
Certainly it seems beyond belief to any normal right thinking member of society that what HSBC bank has done is illegal. Therefore, we must ask why no criminal procedures have taken place against the bank.
This brings us to the case of Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht is allegedly the mastermind behind the internet site Silk Road, a black market site where users can buy and sell goods from class A drugs to guns. In February 2015, Ulbricht was sentenced to life imprisonment under charges of money laundering, computer hacking and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. So that’s life imprisonment for Ulbricht whilst HSBC employees who committed similar and probably worse crimes did not have any criminal charges brought against them, not one. It is a damming judgement on behalf of our judicial system when one section of society can escape law and order based on money and power. Unfortunately this has been the case for centuries and it does not look like changing now. We are living in a two tier-justice system.
Clearly Ulbricht’s actions regarding the black market site did warrant a criminal investigation, however, in a fair and just society it wouldn’t be the case that Ulbricht is banished from freedom to life imprisonment due in part to money laundering, whilst bankers who commit the same criminal acts are free to carry on enabling tax evasion, laundering money for criminals and lining their own pockets with millions of pounds. Either both should be punished or both should go unpunished, instead its legal hypocrisy where the rich and powerful banks and businesses are above the law, it is one law for the nobility and another, much harsher, stricter law for the peasants Ironically, the only HSBC employee that is facing criminal charges is Herve’ Falciani, the whistle-blower who shed light upon the illegal transactions of HSBC and informed the public of their wrong doings.
In an age where crime is encouraged with financial incentives and activism is wholeheartedly discouraged, the attitudes of banks and big businesses strike modern society deep to the core. Banking crimes and misdemeanors are all too commonplace, from miss selling PPI insurance to manipulating stock prices, to avoiding tax and systematically encouraging others to avoid tax, banks are fundamentally out of control. British society and law has seemingly not truly evolved over the past 800 years. Where there was once kings, rich landowners and clergyman dictating law and order, now there are powerful and un-elected banks, hedge funds and big businesses interlinked with governments dictating laws. We are not living in a free democratic society and we have not been living in one for some time now.