The government has "every confidence" in trade minister Lord Green in the wake of accusations that HSBC was guilty of money laundering at the time he was chairman of the bank, the House of Lords has been told.
Speaking in the Lords on Monday afternoon on behalf of the government, Lord Strathclyde told peers that there was "no evidence" that Lord Green had done anything wrong.
"Her Majesty's Government has every confidence in Lord Green's ability to fulfil his ministerial duties," he said. "His experience, expertise and enthusiasm provide great benefit to he UK's international profile."
Last Tuesday HSBC apologised after a US Senate investigation accused it of, among other suspect activities, providing services to some lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh believed to have helped fund al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the subcommittee investigating the bank, said the culture of HSBC's non-UK subsidiaries had been "pervasively polluted for a long time" and said senior executives in London "knew what was going on but allowed the deceptive conduct to continue".
Lord Green, who stepped down from the top job at the British banking giant in 2010 after being appointed to government by David Cameron, has so far not spoken publicly about the allegations.
Labour's Baroness Royall said Lord Green, who was not present in the chamber today, needed to explain "what he knew and when" about the allegations "including what steps he took to deal with them".
She told peers this would give him the opportunity to "dispel the questions once and for all".
Last week the Labour Party twice requested that Lord green answer questions about the scandal - demands that were rebuffed.
The government has insisted that ministers are only accountable to parliament for decisions they take while in office, not for their actions before taking office.
Lord Green joined HSBC in 1982 and rose through the ranks before becoming chief executive in June 2003 and was appointed chairman in 2006.
As the Huffington Post UK reported last week, Lord Green was made aware of the bank’s alleged ties with “rogue” regimes in the Middle East in 2005.
And the US Senate investigation has released internal emails showing how in the same year Lord Green was warned by an internal whistleblower in the bank’s Mexico subsidiary that compliance staff had “fabricated records”.
He was also told in 2008, two years after being appointed executive chairman, that the Mexican authorities had uncovered evidence of money laundering that “may imply criminal responsibility of HSBC”.
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