BNP Paribas fined nearly $9B for violating US sanctions laws

BNP Paribas has agreed to pay nearly $9 billion and plead guilty to violating the nation's sanctions laws, the largest-ever penalty for such a crime in U.S. history.

U.S. authorities announced the $8.97 billion settlement on Monday with BNP for processing transactions with countries like Sudan, Iran and Cuba.

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The settlement includes a year-long ban starting next year against BNP transacting in U.S. dollars and it is the first time a bank has agreed to plead guilty to "large-scale systematic violations of U.S. economic sanctions."

"BNP Paribas went to elaborate lengths to conceal prohibited transactions, cover its tracks and deceive U.S. authorities. These actions represent a serious breach of U.S. law," said Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderHolder defends Mueller: 'No basis to question the integrity of Mueller' Kamala Harris slams Sessions on criminal justice Deputy AG backs Sessions' tough on crime policy MORE in a statement.

“If sanctions are to have teeth, violations must be punished."

Holder warned that the United States will punish other banks that choose to violate the laws especially as the department pursues that no financial institution is "too big to jail."

BNP, which is France's largest bank and the fourth largest financial institution in the world, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act by processing billions of dollars of transactions through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban all countries subject to U.S. economic sanctions.

Over the course of eight years, Holder said BNP "engaged in complex and pervasive scheme to illegally move billions through U.S. financial system."

In doing so, the bank "deliberately and repeatedly violated longstanding sanctions," he said.

The bank also pleaded guilty to criminal charges of conspiracy and filing false business records.

The Justice Department said BNP "knowingly and willfully" moved more than $8.8 billion through the U.S. financial system for the sanctioned countries, including more than $4.3 billion in transactions involving those cut off from the U.S. financial system.  

"BNP engaged in this criminal conduct through various sophisticated schemes designed to conceal from U.S. regulators the true nature of the illicit transactions," the statement said.