French bank BNP Paribas has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and agreed to pay almost $9 billion to resolve allegations that in many financial dealings it violated U.S. sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran. In an unprecedented move, regulators also banned BNP for a year from conducting certain U.S. dollar transactions, a critical part of the bank's international business. The authorities said the severe penalties were warranted because of BNP's persistent and deliberate violations and desire to put profits first, even after U.S. officials warned the bank of its obligation to police for illicit money flows.
The bank's general counsel, Georges Dirani, briefly appeared in New York state court to plead guilty to one count of falsifying business records and one count of conspiracy. U.S. authorities also found BNP Paribas had evaded sanctions against entities in Iran and Cuba, in part by stripping information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. system without raising red flags. No individuals were charged on Monday, but U.S. authorities said they have not wrapped up their probes.