French banking giant BNP Paribas has been awarded the largest sanction-breaking fine in history over illegal channelling of blacklisted cash through US financial firms.
Over a period of nearly a decade, BNPP illegally funnelled money from Iran, Sudan and Cuba through the US, using complex systems of fraud to avoid detection. Speaking at a press conference in Washington yesterday, US Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the “uniquely sophisticated” techniques used by the bank to conceal its criminal operations, including manipulating documents and using “satellite” banks as fronts to conceal the source of funds.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said yesterday that the staggering fine could have been reduced had the bank made efforts to co-operate with the investigation. Instead, he said, BNPP had “ignored US sanctions and dragged its heels,” restricting the ability of the Justice Department to identify and prosecute culpable individuals, sanctioned entities and satellite banks.
“The nature and scope of BNPP’s criminal conduct far exceeded that in any previous criminal sanctions case resolved by the Department of Justice. Today’s $8.973 billion penalty represents the staggering total volume of provable criminal conduct,” said Holder.
“Not only did BNPP commit severe criminal acts, but then, BNPP hindered our ability to prosecute the individuals that engaged in that wrongdoing. It must now accept the criminal consequences of its actions.”
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