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Cuba protests US fines on bank transactions

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HAVANA (AP) — Havana on Thursday protested recent U.S. government fines levied against two banks found to have enabled countries subject to U.S. sanctions, including Cuba, to make prohibited transactions through American financial institutions.

In a statement, the island's Foreign Ministry called the penalties "unjust and illegal" and noted that they came on the heels of a U.N. vote in which world nations once again voted overwhelmingly to condemn the 50-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The bank fines "demonstrate that the U.S. policy of ferocious prosecution of financial and commercial transactions targeting Cuba and those who maintain a legitimate relationship with our country under the protection of international law not only has not changed, but has hardened," the statement read.

On Dec. 11 it was announced that London-based HSBC had agreed to pay $1.9 billion in penalties to end a U.S. probe. The London-based bank was found to have processed transactions that let Mexican drug cartels launder money and allowed others under U.S. suspicion or sanction, including nations such as Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan, move money around the world between the mid-1990s and 2006.

It was the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank, and a U.S. Justice Department official called it a "stunning, stunning failure" by HSBC to monitor itself.

The following day Japan's Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ reached an $8.6 million settlement with the U.S. Treasury Department in a similar case.

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