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BNP Paribas to pay USD8.9bn for violating US economic sanctions

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BNP Paribas (BNPP) has agreed to enter a guilty plea to charges of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA).

The charges against BNPP are that the firm processed billions of dollars of transactions through the US financial system on behalf of Sudanese, Iranian, and Cuban entities, which are all subject to US economic sanctions.  
 
The agreement by the French bank to plead guilty is the first time a global bank has agreed to plead guilty to large-scale, systematic violations of US economic sanctions.
 
“BNP Paribas went to elaborate lengths to conceal prohibited transactions, cover its tracks, and deceive US authorities. These actions represent a serious breach of US law,” Attorney General Eric H Holder said. “Sanctions are a key tool in protecting US national security interests, but they only work if they are strictly enforced.  If sanctions are to have teeth, violations must be punished. Banks thinking about conducting business in violation of US sanctions should think twice because the Justice Department will not look the other way.”
 
Over the course of eight years, BNPP knowingly and wilfully moved more than USD8.8 billion through the US financial system on behalf of sanctioned entities, including more than USD4.3 billion in transactions involving entities that were specifically designated by the US Government as being cut off from the US financial system.   BNPP engaged in this criminal conduct through various sophisticated schemes designed to conceal from US regulators the true nature of the illicit transactions.  
 
BNPP routed illegal payments through third party financial institutions to conceal not only the involvement of the sanctioned entities but also BNPP’s role in facilitating the transactions. BNPP instructed other financial institutions not to mention the names of sanctioned entities in payments sent through the United States and removed references to sanctioned entities from payment messages to enable the funds to pass through the US financial system undetected.
 
BNPP will waive indictment and be charged in a one-count felony criminal information, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, charging BNPP with knowingly and wilfully conspiring to commit violations of IEEPA and TWEA, from 2004 through 2012. BNPP has agreed to plead guilty to the information, has entered into a written plea agreement, and has accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct.
 
The plea agreement, subject to approval by the court, provides that BNPP will pay total financial penalties of USD8.9736 billion, including forfeiture of USD8.8336 billion and a fine of USD140 million.
 
In addition, BNPP has pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to falsifying business records and conspiring to falsify business records. 

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