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BNP agreed to pay $9.8bn to settle the US sanctions probe.Reuters

French bank BNP Paribas has pleaded guilty to violating US sanctions rules and will pay near to $9bn and fire some of its executives, by way of settlement with US authorities.

BNP agreed to pay a record $8.9bn (£5.3bn, €6.7bn) for concealing transactions worth billions of dollars with Sudan, Iran and Cuba - countries facing US economic sanctions - according to the US Justice Department.

The bank will pay a $140m fine and forfeit $8.8bn, which is deemed to be equivalent in amount to the unlawful transactions. The settlement dwarfs HSBC's $1.9bn payment to the US over claims of laundering money for Mexican drug cartels.

As part of the agreement BNP was also temporarily suspended from converting foreign currency into US dollars in New York. In addition, the bank is required to fire 13 employees including chief operating officer Georges Chodron de Courcel.

The case against BNP accused the bank of using a network of banks in the Middle East, Europe and Africa to mask dollar-based transfers connected to the rogue nations. In addition, the bank's employees removed records that would have revealed the identity of the countries.

The guilty plea means the bank admits to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act.

"These activities significantly undermined long-standing US economic sanctions, in many cases to the detriment of America's national security interests," Attorney General Eric H Holder Jr said.

"They continued for years, despite repeated indications and warnings that the bank's conduct violated US embargoes."

France's banking regulator APCR said BNP's liquidity and solvency were found to be "quite solid" and the country's largest bank would be able to "absorb the anticipated consequences".

Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, CEO of BNP Paribas, said in a statement: "We deeply regret the past misconduct that led to this settlement. The failures that have come to light in the course of this investigation run contrary to the principles on which BNP Paribas has always sought to operate."