France opens an investigation into BNP Paribas on its role in Sudan

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PARIS (Reuters) – Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation into French bank BNP Paribas over allegations of complicity in crimes against humanity in Sudan, a lawyer for the International Federation for Human Rights said on Thursday (FIDH) based in Paris.

FILE PHOTO: The BNP Paribas logo can be seen in a branch in Paris, France, February 4, 2020. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier

The investigation comes after nine Sudanese plaintiffs, who said they were victims of violations of their rights by the former Sudanese government of ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, filed a lawsuit last year against BNP Paribas.

The plaintiffs allege that the French bank was complicit in crimes against humanity because it provided financial services to the Sudanese government.

They claim that in a US sanctions violation case, the US Department of Justice described BNP Paribas as the de facto central bank of Sudan from 1997 to 2007 because it gave the Sudanese government access to international money markets and the means to pay personnel, army and security forces.

The conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region caught fire in 2003, when Sudanese forces waged a campaign of violence that killed more than 300,000 people.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has since labeled the campaign a war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 for crimes against humanity.

“This is what we expected. We filed this complaint a year ago against the bank for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity ”, declared Clémence Bectarte, lawyer for the plaintiffs.

FIDH said on Twitter that it had helped the complainants to file a complaint.

BNP Paribas said the bank had no information regarding the procedure and therefore was unable to comment.

The Paris prosecutor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier in 2017, French judicial investigators opened an in-depth investigation into allegations of complicity in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In this case, BNP Paribas is accused by non-governmental organizations of complicity in a transfer of 1.3 million dollars to an arms dealer.

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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