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BNP Paribas to pay $80 million for defrauding U.S. Agriculture Department

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday that a Federal court entered judgment against French bank BNP Paribas for $80 million for defrauding a program designed to encourage American exports.

The program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, covered losses for American commodities exporters in cases where their import partner failed to make a payment.

Last month, BNP Paribas pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $8.9 billion in a settlement with U.S. authorities for violating U.S. economic sanctions.

From 1998 to 2005, BNP Paribas knowingly guaranteed such a credit for companies known to be operating both the export and import side of a trade and, in some cases, never making a payment or shipment, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

Beginning in April 2005, BNP Paribas submitted claims to the Agriculture Department for losses resulting from a Mexican importer owned by the same company as the American exporter.

A vice president of BNP Paribas, Jerry Cruz, pleaded guilty in 2012 to receiving bribes from the exporters.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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