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French bank BNP Paribas pleads guilty, will pay nearly $9 billion for violating US sanctions

WASHINGTON - France's largest bank has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay nearly $9 billion to resolve criminal allegations that it did business with clients in Sudan and other blacklisted countries in violation of U.S. trade sanctions.

The Justice Department is announcing a plea deal with BNP Paribas, which had been under investigation for processing financial transactions for clients in Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

French officials had warned that a large penalty could affect the entire European economy and had lobbied for White House intervention. The French economy minister had urged the Justice Department to be "fair and proportionate" in deciding on a potential penalty.

The announcement comes weeks after Switzerland-based bank Credit Suisse struck a $2.6 billion plea deal with the Justice Department for helping wealthy Americans avoid taxes.

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