Cannabis laws are swiftly changing across the country. States like Washington, Colorado, and Oregon have fully-regulated, legal marijuana markets. As perceptions change towards the drug, legislature follows. However, marijuana is still an illegal substance in New York. That means you can be arrested, processed, and…
You may recall allegations against various banks – notably HSBC and others – for money laundering and violation of U.S. trade sanctions. Interestingly, the criminal cases against the banks (HSBC, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas), have led to a windfall for the Manhattan D.A.’s office. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has announced a number of programs to be funded by the more than $800 million in criminal penalties collected from the banks. The money must be spent on criminal justice projects.
- Thus far, programs utilizing the funds have been announced in the following areas:
- Grants to agencies throughout the United States to test rape kits now sitting in police storage facilities.
- Setting up an international center focusing on stopping cyberattacks.
- Start-up funding for a new institute at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
- Grants to non-profits studying flaws and inequities in the criminal justice system, particularly as they relate to criminal penalties.
- New equipment (about $90 million worth) aimed at crime reduction, including cell phones and tablets for police officers.
- A grant of more than $100 million to fund improved lighting, locks and security cameras at New York City housing projects.
- Money has been provided to prosecutors in the other boroughs of NYC for cybercrime detection.
- A grant to the city’s medical examiner’s office for equipment and training.
- Money has been provided to state agencies for license plate readers on the New York Thruway.
Thus far, the D.A.’s office has allocated $459 million from the fund, and almost $70 has been disbursed.
While the amount of money collected in criminal penalties is staggering, it demonstrates some of the problems that banks – in particular HSBC – have had in the criminal arena over the past 15 years or so, prior to its more recent troubles. In 2001. HSBC’s Republic New York division entered a guilty plea to charges of securities fraud and conspiracy, including a Ponzi scheme that impacted Japanese companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Then there were repeated violations of banking regulations; allowing its name to be used in connection with the fraudulent sale of financial products; allegations of assisting wealthy Americans to evade income taxes; not protecting customer confidential information; abuses related to sale of auction-rate securities and mortgage-backed securities; and the list goes on.
Time will tell whether the earmarking of the funds for the projects designated by the D.A.’s office will have a significant impact on the criminal justice system.
George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016