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French bank BNP Paribas hit with $8.97 billion fine for violating U.S. sanctions

By Kyle Johnson,

France's BNP Paribas was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine on Tuesday for violating U.S. sanctions as the United States continues to examine European banks for dealing with countries under U.S. trade embargoes.

"I think it's fair to say that the U.S. is taking a more aggressive stance on making sure banks are brought to book," Mediobanca SpA analyst Christopher Wheeler told Bloomberg. "It seems difficult to imagine higher fines than this, but clearly it depends on the circumstances."

U.S. officials are currently also looking into several other European lenders, such as Deutsche Bank AG, UniCredit SpA, Commerzbank AG, Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole SA.

BNP worked to hide transactions and illegal payments made for blacklisted countries, like Sudan. The country is currently under a trade embargo for assisting terrorists and human rights abuse.

According to Reuters, the French bank would help hide such illegal transactions by removing pertinent information so they flew under the radar.

"Through a series of egregious schemes to evade detection and with the knowledge of multiple senior executives, BNP employees concealed more than $190 billion in transactions between 2002 and 2012," the Department of Financial Services said.

In addition to the nearly $9 billion fine, BNP also pleaded guilty to two criminal charges, falsifying business records and conspiracy. The bank could be banned for one year from making dollar payments, called dollar-clearing, for New York customers.

Thirteen high-ranking employees will also be departing BNP. "This conduct, this conspiracy was known and condoned at the highest levels of BNP," Ted Starishevsky, assistant district attorney, said.

 
 

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