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Tuesday
Dec112012

HSBC to Pay Almost $2B for Money Laundering

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- HSBC, one of the world's biggest banks, has agreed to pay $1.921 billion for moving money on behalf of Middle East terrorists, Mexican drug cartels and other unscrupulous clients through the American financial system.

In a statement Tuesday, HSBC Group Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said, "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes.  We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again."

"The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes," Gulliver continued.  "Over the last two years, under new senior leadership, we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing these matters."

The bank said it will continue to cooperate fully with authorities and take further steps to "strengthen its compliance policies and procedures."

Earlier this year, the Senate released its findings from a year-long investigation into the bank's practices.  The nearly 400-page report described in exhaustive detail how HSBC executives repeatedly ignored warning signs from their own compliance officers, and from outside regulators, all of whom watched what they believed to be billions of dollars in suspicious transactions passing through the bank without adequate scrutiny.

The report described how HSBC's Mexican affiliate moved $7 billion in physical U.S. dollars through the bank in a two-year stretch, "raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in the United States."  

It laid out how HSBC's executives ignored warnings that it was providing currency to a Saudi bank alleged by some U.S. officials to be involved in financing al Qaeda.  

It found that two HSBC affiliates sent nearly 25,000 transactions involving $19.4 billion through their bank accounts over seven years without disclosing that the transactions had links to Iran.

And it determined that HSBC altogether failed to monitor some $60 trillion in wire transfer and account activities and amassed a backlog of 17,000 unreviewed account alerts regarding potentially suspicious activity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio