The French government is getting into a state over Washington’s plans to fine France’s biggest bank – BNP Paribas – as much as $10 billion (7.3 billion euros).
BNP is currently negotiating with US authorities over alleged evasion of American sanctions against countries including Iran, Sudan and Syria. Reportedly the settlement could be much higher than the $1.1 billion (806 million euros) which the bank had previously set aside.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a fine was normal for violations but it “has to be proportionate and reasonable”. He added: “These figures are not reasonable.”
In a television interview Fabius also warned this could could have an impact on transatlantic free trade talks.
US authorities – including the Justice Department, New York state’s top banking regulator and the Manhattan District Attorney – have accused BNP of removing identifying information from electronic transfers of money so they could pass through the US financial system without raising suspicion.
It is claimed that went on from 2002 to 2009.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters that as well as the fine there could be other penalties, such as a possible temporary suspension of the BNP’s authority to clear US dollar transactions.
The comments from Fabius came just days before US President Barack Obama was due to meet President Francois Hollande in Paris.
Ties between the two allies are already strained over the United States’ handling of the Syrian crisis and France’s reluctance to cancel a deal to sell helicopter carriers to Russia.