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VP Says Bank Fired Him for Blowing Whistle

MIAMI (CN) - A senior vice president says HSBC Bank fired him for objecting to the bank's accepting money that came from "trade with Cuba and Iran." Tomas Benitez Rionda says HSBC Bank named him its "Hero of the Year" in December 2007, and flew him to Paris to receive the award, then fired him a year ago because he "objected to and refused to participate in HSBC's having customer account relationships that included the proceeds of trade with Cuba and Iran."

In his complaint in Miami-Dade County Court, Rionda, whom HSBC hired in 2000 as a senior vice president, said he noticed that "certain clients were funneling large amounts of money that originated or passed through such countries via their HSBC domestic accounts, in violation of federal law."

Rionda says he informed his supervisor and HSBC's compliance department, and his supervisor told him "to do nothing."

Rionda also claims that noticed that an account was "funneling large amounts of funds in and out, with no apparent purpose." Again, he says, he informed the bank's compliance department that the account "had ties to Iran and Cuba and that, as a result, it should not be maintained."

He says his supervisor brushed off his complaint by saying that "the account was a lucrative account for the office," and he "made his objection to its closing clear."

Rionda says HSBC retaliated for his complaints by firing him abruptly in January 2009, owing him money.

He seeks reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, and damages for breach of contract, whistleblower violations, and unjust enrichment.

He is represented by Mark Raymond with Broad and Cassel.

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