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NEW YORK - 23 Jun 2014

French bank to pay US billions for violating Sudan sanctions

BNP Paribas bank is expected to pay a fine of $8-9 billion to the United States government for violating US banking regulations that target Sudan.

The bank is nearing a deal with US prosecutors that would see the bank plead guilty to a criminal charge and pay a fine so huge that it is roughly twice the value of the entire annual exports of Sudan, including oil exports.

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors and BNP lawyers are nearing a deal whereby the bank would plead guilty to a criminal charge of conspiring to violate the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 

Besides the $8-9 billion fine, potentially the bank also faces a months-long ban on its ability to make transactions in US dollars. The two sides are still finalizing the details of the deal, which would settle the matter without any court trial.  

It remains unclear whether prosecutors will also seek to pursue investigations of individual bank officials. Last month the US government demanded the resignation of senior BNP executive Dominique Remy, who stepped down.

The French bank stands accused of using regional banks abroad to route funds linked to Sudan-based companies and government agencies, during a period of more than five years from 2002 to 2009.

In all, US authorities scrutinized $100 billion in suspicious transactions before concluding that $30 billion was willfully hidden to avoid detection by sanctions enforcers.

The Wall Street Journal, citing US law enforcement sources, says that BNP went to extensive lengths to disguise transactions from the US Treasury Department's screening system.

According to the news agency Reuters, the bank played a ‘pivotal role’ in helping Sudan receive US dollar payments for sales of oil, in violation of US sanctions laws. This is the main reason that US authorities have pushed for severe penalties against the bank.

“BNP’s role involved removing references to Sudanese parties from wire-transfer messages, so US dollar oil payments could clear through New York and move into accounts controlled by Khartoum, sources said,” Reuters reported.  

US laws that target Sudan’s oil economy have caused significant diplomatic tensions between the United States and Sudan. Earlier this year it was reported that Sudan refused to grant a visa to US Special Envoy Donald Booth.


US prosecutors threaten French bank with $10bn fine for violating Sudan sanctions (4 June)