Bank in $9bn
payout over sanctions row

French bank BNP Paribas has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and agreed to pay almost $9bn to resolve accusations that it had violated US sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran, in a severe punishment aimed at sending a clear message to other financial institutions around the world.

The BNP Paribas guilty plea is the direct consequence of a broader US Justice Department shift in strategy that is expected to try to snare more major banks for possible money laundering or sanctions violations.

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In an unprecedented move, regulators banned BNP for a year from conducting certain US dollar transactions, a critical part of the bank’s global business, in addition to the fine which was a record for violating American sanctions.

US authorities said the severe penalties reflected BNP’s violations going back to at least 2004 and its drive to put profits first.