BNP Paribas Branch
US may seek over $5bn to settle probes into BNP Paribas' dealings with sanctioned countries. Reuters

US authorities could seek over $5bn from BNP Paribas, which is facing criminal prosecution in the US, to settle federal and state investigations into the French lender's dealings with countries that are on American sanctions lists.

Discussions about the penalty amount are continuing and the final number could change, reported Bloomberg.

A settlement is expected next month, the news agency added.

BNP Paribas is under investigation for alleged processing of transactions with countries such as Sudan and Iran that are on US sanctions lists.

The US justice department, the US treasury department, the US attorney's office in Manhattan, the Manhattan district attorney's office and the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) are all involved in the investigations.

The amount BNP is expected to pay has gradually ratcheted: last week media reports said US authorities were looking for between $3bn and $3.5bn.

Leniency Plea

BNP Paribas recently made last ditch overtures to US prosecutors and regulators for leniency, the New York Times reported.

BNP Paribas chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe headed a three-member team that met with US officials in Washington, to warn of the probable impact of a guilty plea on the French bank and the broader economy.

The ultimate penalty would see BNP lose its banking licence and in extremis be unable to do business in the US.

But prosecutors appeared to balk at the appeals, challenging broader public concerns that banks have grown so important to the economy that they are effectively "too big to jail", reported the newspaper.

BNP executives also met New York's top bank regulator Benjamin Lawsky, who was said to have explained his plans to reprimand no less than a dozen BNP employees for their roles in processing banned transactions.

EU Banks Targeted

US authorities are also probing French banks Societe Generale and Credit Agricole for alleged misappropriation and for violating American sanctions, AFP reported in March.

The US has aggressively pursued and fined European banks operating in countries facing US sanctions.

Barclays, ABN Amro, now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered are among firms that have agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to settle charges that they breached US sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya and Sudan.

In 2012, Standard Chartered agreed to pay $327m to settle allegations that it violated US sanctions against Iran, Sudan, Burma and Libya.