Source: HSBC to pay $1.9B to settle probe

A sign hangs on a HSBC Bank branch A sign hangs on a HSBC Bank branch in Manhattan. HSBC will pay $1.25 billion in forfeiture and pay $655 million in civil penalties to settle a money laundering investigation by state and federal authorities in the United States, a law enforcement official said Monday. (Aug. 1, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty

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HSBC, the British banking giant, will pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe by federal and state authorities in the United States, a law enforcement official said Monday.

The probe of the bank -- Europe's largest by stock market value -- has focused on the transfer of billions of dollars on behalf of nations like Iran, which are under international sanctions, and the transfer of money through the U.S. financial system from Mexican drug cartels.

According to the official, HSBC will pay $1.25 billion in forfeiture and pay $655 million in civil penalties. The $1.25-billion figure is the largest forfeiture ever in a case involving a bank. Under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, the financial institution will be accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act.

The law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an announcement of the agreement could come as early as Tuesday.

The London-based bank said it is cooperating with investigations but that those discussions are confidential.

A U.S. Senate investigative committee has reported that in 2007 and 2008 HSBC Mexico sent to the United States about $7 billion in cash. The report said that amount of cash indicated illegal drug proceeds.

Money laundering by banks has become a priority target for U.S. law enforcement. In another case Monday the British bank Standard Chartered, accused of scheming with the Iranian government to launder billions of dollars, signed an agreement with New York regulators to settle their investigation with a $340-million payment.

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