Ex-HSBC boss Green "regrets" failures

LONDON Tue Jul 24, 2012 1:52pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - UK Trade Minister Stephen Green said he "regrets" the compliance failings of HSBC (HSBA.L) in relation to alleged money laundering when he was chairman there, but said he had no plans to quit.

"HSBC has expressed regret that there were failures at implementation ... and I share that regret," Green said in a letter to Chris Leslie, financial secretary to the UK Treasury for the opposition Labour Party.

Green also told Sky News he had "no case to answer" over the money laundering and said he had no plans to resign.

His letter said HSBC had said it would fix what went wrong, and "it would not be appropriate" for him to comment further.

A U.S. Senate panel last week alleged HSBC acted as a financier to clients routing funds from the world's most dangerous corners, including Mexico, Iran and Syria, doing regular business in areas tied to drug cartels, terrorist funding and tax cheats. It said between 2007 and 2008 HSBC's Mexican operations moved $7 billion into the bank's U.S. operations.

Green was head of the bank at the time, serving as chief executive from 2003 until 2006 and then stepping up to chairman until he left in December 2010. He became trade minister early in 2011 and has faced calls in the last week to explain HSBC's lax controls under his watch.

Money laundering problems at HSBC have been flagged by regulators for nearly a decade and the bank is facing a Justice Department investigation and potential $1 billion fine.

Asked if Green had questions to answer and should remain a minister, Business Secretary Vince Cable told Reuters: "He is a very good trade minister and that is what the prime minister hired him for and he is doing that job very well.

"The criticisms have nothing to do with his own personal involvement in those activities or anything remotely like it. It has now become a complex legal dispute in the United States and his former company will deal with that in a proper legal basis," Cable said.

(Reporting by Steve Slater and Tim Castle, reporting by William Hardy)

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