[JURIST] BNP Paribas (BNPP) [corporate website] pleaded guilty [press release] on Monday to criminal charges of violating US sanctions and will pay a penalty of almost $9 billion. The French bank has been under investigation for violating US money laundering laws by helping clients from Iran, Sudan and Cuba dodge US economic sanctions. The world's fourth largest bank pleaded guilty to falsifying business records and conspiracy. In a separate press release [text], US Attorney Preet Bharara stated that "for years, BNPP provided access to billions of dollars to these sanctioned countries, as well as to individuals and groups specifically identified and designated by the US government as being subject to sanctions. The bank did so deliberately and secretly, in ways designed to evade detection by the US authorities." BNPP will also be sanctioned by the New York Department of Financial Services, and the bank's dollar-clearing functions will be under a year-long ban.
The severity of the punishment [CNN report], a record-high in fines, speaks to the elaborate lengths that the bank went to in effort to conceal the prohibited transactions, which continued even after the investigation began. "These actions represent a serious breach of US law," Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] stated [press release]. The bank has already stated that it will be able to pay [WSJ report] the hefty fines.