WASHINGTON - A Senate panel plans to issue subpoenas today to about ten banks in connection with an ongoing money laundering probe.

The Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations is seeking information on correspondent bank accounts held by certain foreign banks at these U.S. institutions, said an aide to Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat. Sen. Levin, who introduced anti-laundering legislation last year, has been investigating parts of the financial system that are susceptible to criminals who want to disguise their proceeds as legitimate funds.

The aide said that the subpoenas are not related to a criminal investigation and should not be interpreted as an accusation of wrongdoing. Banks had cooperated with an earlier survey from the committee requesting general information on correspondent banking, she said, but required formal legal orders before disclosing information on specific accounts.

Though the committee withheld the names of the banks being subpoenaed, Bank of America confirmed it is among the 10 and plans to cooperate. "We are a very large international bank. It is very understandable that we would receive the survey," a spokesman said. "In addition, we have received inquiries with regard to certain accounts. We always work with government agencies in matters like this … and we will work with them in this case."

Sen. Levin's staff is gathering the information for a report on correspondent accounts and a possible subcommittee hearing this year. "They are in many cases the only mechanism for offshore banks to have access to the American financial system," the aide said Tuesday. "What we are looking at is how careful are U.S. banks at reviewing" the foreign banks holding correspondent accounts at these institutions and their source of funds.

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