HSBC’s staff in India have come under the scanner for deficiencies in their role as “offshore reviewers” of the global banking giant’s compliance to safety mechanism against money laundering and terrorist financing.

A probe by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that HSBC’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance Department, which included employees in India, was highly inadequately staffed.

Besides, deficiencies were found in the quality of the work done by HSBC’s “offshore reviewers in India”, who were used for clearing a major backlog of suspected transaction alerts at the bank.

More than one-third of the alerts already resolved by the Indian reviewers and others “had to be re-done” after an independent assessment by the OCC (the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is the bank’s primary federal regulator in the country).

The probe further found that an OCC visit to India in 2007 had revealed “Weak Monitoring Procedures” in the bank’s internal control systems.

At a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on the matter here yesterday, HSBC apologised for its mistakes and gave its “absolute commitment” to fix the problems.

The 340-page investigation report, which was released yesterday, found HSBC to have used its U.S. bank (HSBC US Bank or HBUS) as a gateway into the U.S. financial system to provide U.S. dollar services to clients while “playing fast and loose with US banking rules,” Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the subcommittee, said.