RPT-UPDATE 1-BNP Paribas nears up to $9 bln settlement with US authorities - source

Mon Jun 23, 2014 4:16am EDT

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* BNP seen paying $8-9 bln for sanctions breaches - source

* France has urged penalty to be fair and proportionate

By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK/PARIS, June 23 (Reuters) - French bank BNP Paribas SA is likely to pay $8 billion to $9 billion as part of a potential settlement with U.S. authorities over violations of sanctions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

U.S. authorities are probing whether BNP Paribas evaded U.S. sanctions relating primarily to Sudan between 2002 and 2009, and whether it stripped out identifying information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags, sources have said.

BNP Paribas has been negotiating on an almost daily basis with U.S. authorities for weeks.

The investigation has turned up more than $100 billion in books and records violations in transactions involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba, one source said on Sunday.

The potential settlement could include BNP Paribas pleading guilty to a criminal charge of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, another source familiar with the matter has said. The potential settlement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin on French radio did not comment on a possible deal but repeated the French position that any penalty should be fair and proportionate.

"The French state, the government ... has played its role in telling the Americans: 'Be careful - by all means punish the past but don't punish the future'," Sapin told France Info.

Earlier in the month, Reuters reported that U.S. authorities negotiating with BNP Paribas at one point suggested that France's biggest bank pay a penalty as high as $16 billion, although that was viewed as a negotiating tactic in response to an offer from BNP Paribas of about $1 billion.

The probes are being conducted by authorities including the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Manhattan District Attorney's office, and the New York Department of Financial Services.

The New York Department of Financial Services, which oversees certain banks in New York, has said it will not revoke the bank's license to operate in New York if BNP Paribas agrees to other stiff penalties, a source has said.

The state regulator also has sought the termination of more than a dozen employees as part of the settlement, at least some of whom have already left.

A BNP Paribas spokeswoman declined to comment. (Reporting by Karen Freifeld in NEW YORK and Supriya Kurane in BANGALORE; Additional reporting by Mark John in Paris; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Mark Potter)

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