World Economy

US Fines BNP Paribas $8.9b in Sanctions Case

US Fines  BNP Paribas $8.9b in Sanctions CaseUS Fines  BNP Paribas $8.9b in Sanctions Case

French bank BNP Paribas was formally sentenced to pay a record $8.9 billion in fines and penalties for violating sanctions against Sudan, Iran and Cuba, the US Justice Department said.

Some of that money could be distributed to people allegedly harmed by the three countries under a program the department launched, Business Insider reported.

BNP Paribas, the world‘s fourth largest bank, agreed in July 2014 to plead guilty to felony violations of US sanctions laws and to pay the fine and penalties. It had admitted to violating US sanctions laws after investigators probed billions of dollars in transactions from 2004-12.

The sentencing marks the first time a financial institution has been convicted and sentenced for violations of US economic sanctions, the department said, adding that the total financial penalty is the largest financial penalty ever imposed in a criminal case.

“BNP Paribas flouted US sanctions laws to an unprecedented extreme, concealed its tracks, and then chose not to fully cooperate with US law enforcement,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R Caldwell in a news release.

The Justice Department said BNP deliberately disregarded the law and provided the so-called rogue nations – Sudan in particular – vital access to the global financial system. Its actions helped Sudan’s lawless government harbor and support terrorists and to persecute its own people, Caldwell said.

State and federal authorities said BNP violated the sanctions against Sudan by using regional US banks to assist Khartoum in selling oil over a period of several years.

According to prosecutors, BNP helped process $6.4 billion worth of transactions for Sudan, more than $686 million for Iran and $1.747 billion for Cuba.

BNP was ordered to forfeit $8.8 billion to the United States – the equivalent of the illicit transactions – and to pay a 140-million-dollar fine, the Justice Department said. It also was sentenced to five years on probation.

The judge in the case, US District Court Judge Lorna G. Schofield, said the penalty would “surely have a deterrent effect on others that may be tempted to engage in similar conduct.”

French President Francois Hollande had tried to persuade the US to be lenient, according to Bloomberg news, but the sentencing made clear that the overtures fell short.