Record BNP Fine Leaves Terror Victims Miffed

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Dampening their victory in enforcing a record-breaking $8.8 billion fine against BNP Paribas for sanctions violations, federal prosecutors felt a wave of discontent from victims of terrorist attacks who hoped for a cut of the judgment.
     On Friday, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield tacked on an additional $140 million fine on top of the billions BNP Paribas already owes for conspiring to flout U.S. sanctions by dealing with “rogue nations” like Sudan, Cuba and Iran.
     The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara trumpeted the sentencing as the “first time a financial institution has been convicted and sentenced based on its violations of U.S. economic sanctions.”
     The Paris-based bank got hit with this judgment for providing “dollar clearing services” through “satellite banks” that allowed citizens from those three countries to “gain illegal access to the U.S. financial system,” prosecutors say.
     Today’s development was not without its critics, however.
      Shortly after the hearing, victims of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania released a statement expressing “expressed deep sadness and disappointment” that the penalty will not be used to compensate them.
     “I spent over nine months in hospitals and operations after the attack, but I went back to work at the embassy as soon as I could because I am proud to serve America and believe in the ideals it stands for,” victim Tobias Atieno, 65, said in a statement.
     Blinded in al-Qaida’s attack in Nairobi, Atieno had been a commercial specialist for the embassy and was among the 537 people represented in the statement. About 10 of the victims flew into New York to attend this morning’s hearing.
     “I am grieved to see the Department of Justice backtrack from the promises that gave so many of us hope,” Atieno said.
     
On Thursday, Judge Schofield rejected a petition by Nebraska teacher Marilyn Wiederspan to use the judgment to satisfy a $63 million anti-terrorism judgment she obtained against the Cuban government.
     A Florida court awarded Wiederspan the judgment for Fidel Castro government’s torture and execution of her father Jose Velasquez Fernandez, a lieutenant in the Cuban army, Bloomberg reported.
     Schoefield dismissed Wiederspan’s petition for lack of standing.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein offered up some hope for the future compensation of these victims at today’s hearing.
     “As Your Honor recognized, there are numerous individuals of whom the government is aware suffered grievous harm at the direction of the regimes in Sudan, Iran and Cuba, which are the regimes that this defendant willfully processed billions of transactions for,” he told the judge.
     He added that the government is “exploring ways to use the forfeited funds in this proceeding to see if there is an equitable way to distribute funds from this judgment to potential victims of these regimes.”
     Goldstein promised that the Justice Department would set up such a process “starting today,” the transcript shows.

%d bloggers like this: