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Bank accused of Russian money laundering freezes accounts of e-cig firm

How does a seemingly ordinary e-cig company get swept up in an international banking scandal involving Russian oligarchs and over $80 billion in suspected money laundering transactions?  That’s the question that the Agustin Larocca, spokesperson for the luxury e-cig company Bellmonte, wants to know, as well.

In case vapers are not aware, several banks based out of Great Britain including HSBC, Barclays, Coutts, and the Royal Bank of Scotland were being accused by both the U.S. Treasury Department and the UK House of Commons of processing ill-gotten gains out of Russia.  The money laundering scam is alleged to have taken place between 2010 and 2014, but government officials didn’t catch on until around 2016.  That’s when the Feds put the kibosh on the whole devious debacle.

Bellmonte e-cigs accidentally gets caught in the crosshairs

As a result, multiple UK banks were required to open their books and answer some very probing questions by the federal investigators.  And quite understandably, bank officials did not have all the answers, specifically relating to individual bank accounts of certain businesses. 

So, the banks were forced to send out inquiries to these businesses, hoping to be granted clarification into the Fed’s requests for information.  If the business owners did not respond in a timely manner, did not respond thoroughly, or if they simply did not respond at all, then then banks either closed or froze their accounts.

Unfortunately, several companies got caught in the crosshairs of these federal investigations, and Bellmonte was one of them.  According to a report in Reuters, at least fourteen such companies had their bank accounts inadvertently frozen for several weeks, and another thirty businesses have lodged complaints against HSBC Bank alone for being inconvenienced in some regard.

In the case of Bellmonte, this firm had its bank accounts frozen for nearly seven weeks. Apparently, everything has been resolved.  Their bank accounts are apparently now back in play.  And, no, Bellmonte was not found to be part of the Russian money laundering scandal, but Mr. Larocca was so irritated by the entire situation that he took to Twitter to blast HBSC Bank nonetheless. 


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