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BNP Paribas may pay more than $3 billion to end probes: sources

The logo of financial group BNP Paribas Fortis is seen outside the Belgian headquarters in Brussels November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge
The logo of financial group BNP Paribas Fortis is seen outside the Belgian headquarters in Brussels November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

By Karen Freifeld and Aruna Viswanatha

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - BNP Paribas is in talks with U.S. authorities to pay more than $3 billion to resolve probes into whether the French bank violated U.S. sanctions on Iran, Sudan and other countries, people familiar with the matter said.

The bank warned last month it faced fines in excess of $1.1 billion over the matter, but declined to provide a specific number.

The probes are being conducted by 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.

BNP Paribas declined to comment on Tuesday on the size of any fine.

Prosecutors have also pushed the bank to plead guilty to criminal charges as part of a resolution, sources have said. The Justice Department has faced criticism that it has shied away from prosecuting financial companies accused of engaging in misconduct.

Last week U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said his department was working closely with regulators to address potential consequences that might arise from the criminal prosecution of financial institutions, without naming specific banks.

Last Thursday, BNP Paribas Chief Executive Officer Jean-Laurent Bonnafe and the bank's lawyers met with the New York Department of Financial Services, the state's banking regulator, and made a plea for leniency, one source said.

The source said the regulator, led by Benjamin Lawsky, wouldn't revoke the bank's license if other stiff penalties were included in the settlement.

Such penalties could include temporarily suspending dollar clearing through New York and terminating more than a dozen employees, though no final decision has been made, the source said.

Authorities have gone after several foreign banks over violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries, alleging that the banks did business with entities associated with sanctioned countries, or stripped information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. financial system without raising red flags.

Past U.S. settlements have ensnared rivals such as Standard Chartered (STAN.L), which agreed in 2012 to pay $327 million to resolve allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan, Burma and Libya. The bank was separately fined $340 million by New York's banking regulator over Iranian sanctions.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York, Aruna Viswanatha in Washington and Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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