WASHINGTON, June 30 (Xinhua) -- France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, has pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions laws and agreed to pay almost 9 billion U.S. dollars to settle the charge, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.
It is the first time a financial institution has agreed to plead guilty based on "large-scale, systematic violations" of U.S. economic sanctions, the department said.
U.S. authorities found that BNP Paribas moved over 8.8 billion dollars through the U.S. financial system "on behalf of Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban sanctioned entities" from 2004 through 2012, in violation 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," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The French bank agreed to pay total financial penalties of 8.97 billion dollars to settle the probe with U.S. authorities, including forfeiture of 8.83 billion dollars and a fine of 140 million dollars.
As part of the agreement, the New York State Department of Financial Services required 13 employees to leave the bank, including Chief Operating Officer Georges Chodron de Courcel.
The bank will also be barred from U.S. dollar clearing operations through its New York Branch and other affiliates for one year starting Jan 1, 2015.
"We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement," BNP Paribas CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said in a statement. "Having this matter resolved is an important step forward for us. Apart from the impact of the fine, BNP Paribas will once again post solid results this quarter."