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Telegraph Did Not Publish Exclusive Story Linking HSBC To Iranian Government On Its Website

An exclusive Daily Telegraph story revealing that HSBC was inadvertently paying rent to an arm of the Iranian state was buried in the print edition. BuzzFeed News understands that the story didn't even make it on to the newspaper's website.

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An exclusive Daily Telegraph story exposing how HSBC was paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent to a subsidiary of the Iranian government was never published on the newspaper's website, BuzzFeed News has learned.

The story, by the newspaper's former banking editor Harry Wilson, set out how HSBC had been paying rent on one of its central London branches to Iran's state-controlled oil company.

The exclusive story appeared in the Daily Telegraph's print edition on 8 May 2014, but was relegated to a 43-word paragraph tacked on the end of an otherwise uneventful article on the banking giant's quarterly financial results.

The scoop was never even published on the newspaper's website, and the current online version of the financial results article omits the crucial final paragraph, which sets out how HSBC indirectly paid money to the Iranian government.

The story was embarrassing for HSBC because it came just over a year after a $1.9 billion settlement with US prosecutors over claims the bank broke economic sanctions by dealing with countries including Iran.

On Tuesday afternoon the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, resigned, claiming the newspaper had allowed HSBC to influence its business coverage because the company was a major advertiser.

Other Telegraph articles critical of HSBC have also been removed from the newspaper's website for unknown reasons.

HSBC declined to comment on this story and said it would not discuss Oborne's allegations that it was able to influence the Daily Telegraph's business coverage.

The Daily Telegraph did not respond to repeated requests for comment asking why it never published Wilson's original HSBC exclusive on its website. The newspaper has repeatedly denied Oborne's claims that the bank's advertising accounts are allowed to influence its editorial coverage.

The exclusive story at the end of the article reads:

HSBC is facing embarrassment after discovering it is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in rent on one of its London branches to the Iranian government, less than two years after signing a $1.9bn settlement with the US authorities over breaches of sanctions.

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No other outlets followed up this lead until, 11 days later, The Times dedicated a substantial chunk of its business section – including a comment piece – to the story under the headline "HSBC finds political unexploded bomb in London branch".

Other outlets who followed up the piece went on to credit The Times with breaking the story, apparently in the belief that it had not previously appeared elsewhere.

Full disclosure: Robert Colvile, BuzzFeed UK's news director, contributed to the editing of this post. Colvile was until recently a senior editor at the Daily Telegraph.

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at jim.waterson@buzzfeed.com.

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