PARIS (AFP) — Victims of war crimes in Sudan filed a criminal complaint Thursday against French lender BNP Paribas, accusing the bank of complicity in torture and genocide by acting as the regime’s “de facto central bank,” rights bodies said.
Nine victims were named in the complaint filed with investigative judges in Paris, the International Federation for Human Rights, which backs the action, said in a statement.
It concerns crimes against humanity, genocide and torture allegedly committed in Sudan between 2002 and 2008.
“This complaint marks the first attempt to hold the French bank criminally responsible for alleged complicity in international crimes committed in Sudan, and Darfur in particular,” the federation said.
A spokesperson for the bank said it was not aware of the opening of any criminal probe and did not comment on judicial processes.
Investigating magistrates in Paris will now determine if the complaint is admissable and if an investigation should be opened.
Sudan’s western region of Darfur has been torn by years of conflict that erupted in 2003 between ethnic minority rebels and the forces of now ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million displaced, according to the United Nations.
In 2014, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to violate American sanctions against the governments of Sudan, Iran and Cuba, and agreed to a $8.9 billion fine.
It was found guilty of having gone “to elaborate lengths to conceal prohibited transactions, cover its tracks, and deceive US authorities,” according to a US Department of Justice statement.
Illegal payments “were made on behalf of sanctioned entities in Sudan, which was subject to US embargo based on the Sudanese government’s role in facilitating terrorism and committing human rights abuses,” it said.
The FIDH said Sudanese victims did not receive any compensation from that settlement as the United States Congress “diverted the funds to victims of domestic terrorist attacks.”
“Behind the gravest crimes and human rights violations there is always money,” added the federation’s honorary president Patrick Baudouin.
“By granting the Sudanese regime access to international money markets, BNPP allowed the government to function, pay its staff, military and security forces, make purchases abroad, all while Sudan was a pariah on the international scene for planning and committing crimes in Darfur.”
Lawyers for the FIDH and Project Expedite Justice have collated victim testimonies, hoping an investigation will be opened in France “focused on the potential criminal responsibility of BNPP and the bank’s senior staff.”
The bank is also under investigation in France for alleged complicity in the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority.
© Agence France-Presse