Another London-Based Bank Caught in Scandal

Another London-Based Bank Caught in Scandal

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HSBC could face over a billion dollars in fines for laundering money from drug dealers and terrorists.

Europe’s largest bank, hsbc, was forced to apologize before the United States Senate June 17 after being accused of turning a blind eye to money laundering by drug cartels and terrorists. The bank’s head of compliance, David Bagley, resigned as the bank was accused of allowing clients with links to al Qaeda, Iran and North Korea to use the bank to transfer money around the world.

Drivers pass an HSBC bank branch in downtown Los Angeles, California. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The bank’s American operation “offers a gateway for terrorists to gain access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system,” said a report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations.

The committee said hsbc supplied funds to the Saudi Arabian Al Rajhi Bank—despite Al Rajhi’s position on a terrorism watch list and its founder’s links with al Qaeda. It worked with other banks in the Muslim world that the U.S. government linked to terrorist financing.

The committee said the bank processed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of suspicious transactions by Russian “used-car salesmen,” only stopping when regulators stepped in.

The bank also rated its activities in Mexico as low risk, despite the “overwhelming information” indicating otherwise. This meant it didn’t even monitor its Mexican wing for suspicious transactions. Employees at the bank also raised concerns that the bank was ignoring money laundering in Mexico.

It wasn’t just a case of the bank turning a blind eye to dodgy transactions. The committee said the bank helped officials in nations like Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Syria get around U.S. sanctions. When money was transferred from these countries to the U.S., they lied about the country of origin. An audit by Deloitte llp found that the bank facilitated nearly $20 billion of transactions with Iran.

“While some hbus [hsbc’s American wing] officials in the United States claim not to have known they were processing undisclosed Iranian truncations, documents show key hbus officials were informed early on,” said Sen. Carl Levin.

The U.S. Justice Department has also investigated several other major banks for similar offenses. Dutch bank ing paid $619 million in fines last month after facing similar investigations. Citibank, Bank of America and Western Union have been investigated for laundering drug money. The committee said that hsbc was a “case study” of the rampant problems in the finance industry.

hsbc promised to mend its ways, but the committee said it doubted this would happen. The bank has been in trouble with regulators for money laundering twice before—in 2003 and 2007.

The Senate subcommittee also rebuked the regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for not doing enough to punish hsbc when its problems were discovered.

Reports that a London-based bank is full of corruption are becoming routine. Coming on the heels of Barclay’s libor scandal and JP Morgan’s huge losses in the London operations, it shows that corruption and immorality has percolated throughout Britain’s banking sector. Whether it’s helping terrorists evade sanctions, lying so that colleagues can avoid losses, or massaging the figures to help the bank avoid collapse, for too many in Britain’s banks, profit is the only guide for their actions.

This is bad for the banks, and it’s bad for Britain.

Financial services is one of the few vibrant parts of the economy that Britain has left. But trust in London’s banks is all but gone. These scandals threaten to destroy London as a center for global finance.

Iran and the ‘End of Days’

Iran and the ‘End of Days’

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There’s infinitely more at stake in the Middle East than oil and geopolitics.

Tension is rising in the Middle East again. The civil war in Syria is worsening, Western sanctions on Iran are intensifying, large-scale military exercises by both Tehran and the West are on the cards. This is all worrying and cause for alarm.

Yet, it is an unprecedented, largely ignored national address by Iran’s supreme leader that is most alarming. On Friday, July 6, a number of Iranian state-run media outlets ran stories highlighting remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In his address, Khamenei warned his people all over the world that Iran must prepare for war, and that we are now living in “the end of times.”

More specifically, Khamenei warned of the imminent return of the Mahdi, or the 12th imam. “The issue of Imam Mahdi is of utmost importance, and his reappearance has been clearly stated in our holy religion of Islam,” he said. “We must study and remind ourselves of the end of times and Imam Mahdi’s era. … We must prepare the environment for the coming so that the great leader will come.”

The belief of a returning Mahdi, or 12th imam, is a defining doctrine within the most populous group of Shiites known as Ithna Ashari, or “Twelvers.” In addition to Iran’s supreme leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also belongs to this influential group. According to Twelver theology, the Mahdi’s return will be precipitated by planet-engulfing wars, the likes of which will destroy one third of the world’s population, and another third as a result of widespread hunger, disease and social unrest. Finally, the destruction will be capped with the annihilation of the Jewish state and the killing of all infidels, after which the seed of Islam will be planted in the four corners of the Earth.

Here in the West, most people mistakenly ignore this theology and the depth of commitment Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and their followers have to it. This is to our own peril. Twelvers don’t just believe the Mahdi will soon return: They consider it a personal responsibility to create the apocalyptic conditions that will surround his return.

Frankly, ushering in the Mahdi is the guiding principle of Iran’s foreign policy!

As Joel Rosenburg, former aide to Benjamin Netanyahu, put it, “[I]n order to bring about this Islamic messiah, the Mahdi, the 12th imam, Islamic leaders need to hasten his coming by destroying little Satan, Israel, and the great Satan, the United States. … [T]he leaders actually believe they need to create bloody carnage, the death of millions of people in order to create the conditions for the Mahdi to bring peace” (emphasis added throughout).

Indeed, as Khamenei recently told his people: “We must prepare for the coming. Since we consider ourselves the warriors of the 12th imam, we must fight.”

Khamenei has created several centers in Iran devoted to the research of the coming of the Mahdi, and there’s even an annual conference on Mahdiism. In 2004, during his tenure as mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad constructed a “grand avenue” in preparation for the Mahdi’s return. When he became president in 2005, he allocated $17 million for a blue-tiled mosque in Jamkaran (south of the capital), closely associated with mahdaviat. Inside Iran, both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have been quite literally preparing the place to which they believe the Mahdi will return.

Ahmadinejad’s conviction is so strong, he even stood in front of a room full of United Nations leaders in New York and prayed for Allah to help him hasten the Mahdi’s return—which he could only do by precipitating a holocaust-type event!

Citing Iranian news media, the Journal of Turkish Weekly last week reported that the regime in Tehran is even distributing a booklet titled The Last Six Months. According to Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym for a former cia operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards), “the material admonishes the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary forces that they must be prepared to do their duties during the expected war.”

One can hardly overstate the influence of Twelver theology on Iranian national and foreign policy. “From redressing the gulf between rich and poor in Iran, to challenging the United States and Israel and enhancing Iran’s power with nuclear programs, every issue is designed to lay the foundation for the Mahdi’s return,”wrote Scott Peterson.

Amir Mohebian, political editor of the Islamic Resalat newspaper, noted the effect of Ahmadinejad’s religion on his leadership: “This kind of mentality makes you very strong. … If you think these are the last days of the world, and [the Mahdi] will come [again], this idea will change all your relations.” Putting himself in Ahmadinejad’s shoes, Mohebian stated, “If I think the Mahdi will come in two, three or four years, why should I be soft? Now is the time to stand strong, to be hard.”

Here’s how Charles Krauthammer summed up Iran under Ahmadinejad not long after he was elected in 2005: “[A] Holocaust-denying, virulently anti-Semitic, aspiring genocidist, on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons of the apocalypse, believes that the end is not only near but nearer than the next American presidential election. … This kind of man would have, to put it gently, less inhibition about starting Armageddon than a normal person.”

When you read these statements, you begin to grasp exactly what is at stake right now in the Middle East!

Problem is, too few are paying any attention to these facts!

If you’ve been reading the Trumpet, you may recognize some of the similarities between Ayatollah Khamenei’s belief in the return of the 12th imam, and the Trumpets long-standing prophecy about the return of Jesus Christ. In reality, the Twelver doctrine is a twisted counterfeit of more than a few biblical prophecies, all of which were canonized long before the emergence of Islam. In Matthew 24:21-22, for example, Jesus Christ Himself describes the events that surround His return.

That passage reads, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [“saved alive,” the Moffatt translation says]: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Notice, Jesus Christ will return and shorten those days!

Here’s what Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote about this: Ahmadinejad “believes that by using nuclear bombs, he speeds the return of his messiah and saves his Muslim cohorts. … [T]he mission of their revolution is to pave the way for this return of his messiah—and he can hasten that by nuking people. … Ahmadinejad’s god is on the side of the nuclear bomb throwers. His god somehow delights in him nuking other nations, of all things. What a diabolical concept!”

“The motive of his god is the exact opposite of what Christ will do,” Mr. Flurry wrote.

The Bible clearly reveals that Christ will have to intervene to prevent the full-scale annihilation of mankind that Ayatollah Khamenei dreams about. Mr. Flurry continued: Jesus Christ “would have to cut time short, or those in the spirit of Ahmadinejad would annihilate all human life on this planet! … Christ will return to stop the use of nuclear bombs forever and save humanity alive. These are two extremely different scenarios. One is the act of monstrous hatred; the other, an act of unparalleled godly love.”

If you haven’t read it already, or even if you read it when it was first published back in 2008, take a few moments to read Mr. Flurry’s article “Nuclear Iran Means Nuclear War.”

Vatican 49-Percent Compliant in Financial Transparency Test

The Vatican has passed an important financial transparency test, the Council of Europe reported on Wednesday. The announcement reflects the Vatican’s latest effort to wash away a longstanding financial reputation that is smudged with secrecy and scandal.

The Vatican received praise for complying more with international rules that fight money laundering and terrorist financing. Associated Press reports, “The report showed the Vatican had received compliant or largely compliant grades on nine of the 16 ‘key and core’ internationally recognized recommendations to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.”

However, it received poor grades for its financial oversight agency, its lack of fiscal transparency and policies of the Vatican Bank, which is where Vatican officials and others hold their accounts.

The Vatican has a history of hiding its financial transactions. Its handling of Nazi finances is one notable example. In 1997, a United States Treasury document revealed that, during and after World War ii, the Vatican may have performed an ignoble service for the Nazis’ Croatian puppet regime. Evidence indicates that it hoarded gold that had been stolen from Holocaust victims. The Vatican dismissed the accusation, but refused to open its archives to dispel it.

The Vatican scored compliant or largely compliant in 49 percent of the European council test criteria. But don’t think that it is a transparent organization. Pope Benedict xvi himself has expressed a strong interest in influencing the world’s financial system. This is a step toward that end. Watch for the Vatican to gain more control over world finance, and read our article “The Vatican, Germany and Global Regulation.”

Eritrea in Iran’s Crosshairs

JERUSALEM—Eritrea’s extensive weapons and human trafficking industry is operating with the full support of the Eritrean government, according to a United Nations report that was leaked to a British newspaper this week.

“An investigation by the Somalia and Eritrea monitoring group has uncovered a trafficking highway running from the Eritrean highlands through Sudan’s refugee camps into the Sinai desert, delivering arms to militant groups, and Eritrean asylum-seekers to Bedouin gangs,” London’s Guardian reported (July 17).

As we reported Tuesday, the Sinai Peninsula is fast becoming a hotbed of terrorist cells that are arming themselves with smuggled weapons and actively training for war. According to witness testimony cited in the UN report, the arms from Eritrea are delivered to Palestinians in Gaza as well as to radical Islamists and Bedouin gangs in the Sinai. The trafficking ring is so extensive that it is believed to involve several high-ranking Eritrean officials and military personnel.

This is the real significance behind the Eritrean weapons smuggling operation—that it may reach the very highest levels of government in the African nation. Earlier this year, we predicted the radicalization of Eritrea and that it would soon become a “blockbuster headline” to hit newspapers.

“[R]adical Islamist forces have gotten a foothold in Eritrea, Ethiopia’s regional adversary and a nation strategically situated at the gateway of the Red Sea,” we wrote in February.

In 2006, the United Nations accused Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Hezbollah of providing arms, training and financing to Islamic militants in Somalia via Eritrea. In December 2008, reports emerged that Iranian naval vessels had visited the Eritrean port of Assab and deposited an undisclosed number of Iranian troops and weapons there …. Eritrea’s support … of Islamic terrorism in general is so serious that the UN Security Council last November imposed sanctions on the country. The sanctions, stated U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, will send the message to Eritrea “that it will pay an ever higher price” for its support of Iran and radical Islamist groups.

When it comes to the spread of radical Islam, Iran is always there hard at work behind the scenes. It already controls the Strait of Hormuz, and with the radicalization of Egypt now in full swing, you can be sure its sights are set on the Suez Canal as well. Throw in Eritrea and eventually Ethiopia, and Iran will have devoured the Red Sea. When that happens, as we wrote in that February article, Iran will then have the power and resources to lock down virtually the entire Middle East!

For more on this trend, read “Ethiopia in the Crosshairs.”

Herbert W. Armstrong Heralded the World Tomorrow to Tunisia

Herbert W. Armstrong Heralded the World Tomorrow to Tunisia

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How Prime Minister Heidi Nouria sought the agricultural and nutritional wisdom of the unofficial ambassador for world peace

Tunisian Prime Minister Hedi Nouria received Herbert W. Armstrong at around noontime, Wednesday, June 6, 1979, at the palace Kasbah in Tunis. Traveling with the unofficial ambassador for peace was senior member of the Japanese Diet, Tokuo Yamashita.

The June 11 Pastor General’s Report recounted that the trio “discussed at length a proposed project of triangular cooperation between the government and people of Tunisia, the United States and Japan in the domain of nutrition. The meeting was also attended by the minister of planning as well as the chief of staff of the cabinet of the prime minister.”

Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa, featuring the aquatic beauty and water access of the Mediterranean to the north, Algeria to the west and Libya at its east.

Its population of almost 11 million is compressed into 64,000 square miles, with the Sahara desert to the south. To the northeast, the country is benefited by fertile soil and 810 miles of coastline.

This demography and geography necessitates a good understanding of agricultural principles not only to feed Tunisia’s citizens but also to ensure the nation’s enduring survival. Its agricultural dominance in North Africa even hails back to the Roman Empire, when its territory was known as the “bread basket” of the resurrected European power.

“Mr. Armstrong explained the Church’s long interest in improving nutritional values everywhere, including various agricultural projects and studies that had been carried on for many years under the auspices of Ambassador College in Texas” (ibid).

This commitment spanned the Atlantic when in 1960 an extensive farm program was sown and grown at the college’s campus in Bricket Wood, England, until its closure in 1974.

Prior to this trip to North Africa, the former head of Ambassador College’s agricultural program met with Mr. Armstrong for discussion of “current developments” in this vital field of study.

On that June evening in 1979, as Mr. Armstrong visited Tunisia, a dinner was held in honor of this ambassador for peace, attended by the country’s ministers of foreign affairs, justice, culture, planning and social welfare, in addition to the ambassadors from Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Romania, Italy and Japan.

Key focus was placed upon the humanitarian activities of Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (aicf) in concert with world governments and their joint programs. The foundation’s spiritual, human, physical and financial resources were highlighted as it was announced that the aicf would cooperate with Tunisia’s National Institute of Nutrition for prospective joint endeavors.

“Mr. Armstrong, in speaking for some 30 minutes, explained the purpose of the Church and the great commission. He announced that world peace would be established in the World Tomorrow with the government of God under the laws of God” (ibid).

He further penned information on God’s system of agriculture, nutrition and the way to assured happiness in health in his hope-filled booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like, noting, “There are blessings for observing the laws of health—absolute guarantees good health will result—and that sickness and disease will become a thing of the past.”

He institutionalized education on the subject from the perspective of the Creator of weather, soil and food, reminding those who cared to hear, such as Tunisia’s government, of the need for the restoration of nutrition and health from this captive world’s norms of famine, poverty, sickness and disease (Jeremiah 30:17).

Today, in the tradition of Mr. Armstrong’s longtime dedication to agricultural development and enhanced nutrition, Gerald Flurry, as founder and chancellor of Herbert W. Armstrong College, oversees an agricultural and food services program which provides students not only job experience, but an informed understanding of health, diet and nutrition from the Creator’s perspective.

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the [Eternal], for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jeremiah 31:12).

Last year’s overthrow of the Ben Ali government amid political corruption and civil strife found Tunisia seeking refuge along with future prosperity at the feet of its historic European overseer.

The European Union is Tunisia’s largest trading partner, dominating over 70 percent of both imports and exports. This economic alliance will have bearing on the continuing imperial march of the EU south and east.

But Tunisia’s dependence on the EU for economic survival is destined to have a far more spectacular ultimate outcome, encapsulated in the very message Mr. Armstrong delivered to its governing elite in Tunis, when he “announced that world peace would be established in the World Tomorrow with the government of God under the laws of God.”

Anciently, the Apostle John wrote of the prophesied rise and fall of the seventh resurrection of this Holy Roman Empire, saying “the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her.” From its prophesied increasing spiritual, political, military and economic dominance, this great northern power will cease from its global exploitation in trade of minerals, forestry, agriculture, food and future slave labor. Tunisia’s and the world’s “merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing” (Revelation 18:11-15).

The cataclysmic fall of this final rise of a Berlin-Rome-dominated 10-nation combine will come at the divine hands of the Supreme One whose very gospel was preached around the world and to Tunisia’s ruling elite by Herbert W. Armstrong, the unofficial ambassador for world peace (Matthew 24:14).

You may be surprised to uncover that God has already sown the future crop of leadership to fulfill the utopian provision of abundant agriculture, nutrition, health, wealth and happiness of mankind. To understand more, without cost or obligation, request Mr. Armstrong’s booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.

Necklacing Brings Mob Terror to South African Slums

Necklacing Brings Mob Terror to South African Slums

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The lack of police protection and action against crime is causing a resurgence of mob rule in South African slums. In South African slums the rates of robbery, rape and murder are among the highest in the world.

In the township of Khayelitsha there has been a growing number of mob vigilante slayings known as necklacing. Victims have a car tire shoved over their shoulders and gasoline poured into the tire. The tire is then ignited, causing a gruesome and cruel death.

Accused of theft, Ncedile Gigi and two others were necklaced in March by a mob that was fed up with poor police practices. The heat from the flames fused Gigi’s body with that of another, and the charred remains were left on a sandy patch of ground where children normally play soccer—a macabre warning to others and a grim reminder of the social problems that plague Africa’s biggest and most developed economy.

For South Africans, the violence brings back to the foreground the days of apartheid when suspected collaborators of the white minority government were executed by necklace.

Since January, over 10 young men have been executed in this manner. The executions were based on mob accusation and hearsay, not on investigation and proof.

Although Gigi’s body was removed from the sand dune a few hours after his execution, his body is still not buried because his remains cannot be distinguished within the fused pair.

“The way my brother died is very painful. We are waiting for dna tests,” Gigi’s older sister, Kholiswa, told Reuters in her home, a tin and wood shack in a sea of shacks. “Maybe if I was there I could try to stop them—maybe just a beating only and not go so far as to burn him.”

South African police and government officials are concerned that citizens are taking justice into their own hands. “This is actually a deeply worrying trend for the police and government because citizens do not have faith in formal institutions and are resorting to violence,” said Hennie van Vuuren, director of the Cape Town office for the Institute for Security studies. “It is very possible that some of the victims may well be innocent.”

The escalating violence in Khayelitsha—Cape Town’s largest black township of 750,000 people—has caught the attention of prosecutors and the new national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega.

Phiyega, South Africa’s first woman police chief, is under incredible pressure to restore credibility and morale in the scandal-plagued police force.

Many consider fixing the problems in Khayelitsha the right move.

Even though new police cars patrol its troubled streets in order to prevent crime, residents remain skeptical because of historic delays in police response to incidents, mishandled investigations and police corruption.

“The police don’t do their job,” said Telford Thanduxolo, tending a small vegetable patch close to where Gigi was executed. “And if the police fail to do their job, then the community must take over.”

The problems in Khayelitsha are not with the police alone. Even when police act against crimes such as necklacing, residents often refuse to cooperate. Reuters reported, “But the wheels of South African justice grind slowly at the best of times, and few Khayelitsha residents are going to go out of their way to put the agents of an accepted vigilante justice system behind bars.”

It is not likely that Khayelitsha’s problems will be solved any time soon. However, there is a solution to bring peace and safety to South Africa’s slums. Read “Outside the Stadium” to see what South Africa is like today. But also be sure to read our online booklet South Africa in Prophecy to see the incredibly wonderful future just over the horizon for South Africa.