A GROUP of victims who lost family or were injured in two United States embassy bombings in Africa are suing BNP Paribas for $3.4 billion (US $2.4 billion), alleging the French bank helped finance the terrorist attacks by doing business with black-listed nations.
The suit, filed in a Washington federal court on Wednesday, is the first to target a global bank that has been penalised for violating US economic sanctions.
In June 2014, BNP paid a record $12.6 billion fine (US $9 billion) for helping clients dodge sanctions on Iran, Sudan and other rogue countries under a settlement with the Justice Department and New York’s Department of Financial Services.
Now, working as a group, 68 Americans are seeking to hold the bank accountable for the US embassy bombings carried out by al Qaeda in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
“What we have to do is show that they aided and abetted this terrorist country,” Thomas Fay, the lead lawyer for the victims, told The New York Post.
“For them to be able to purchase anything outside the country, they had to get [currencies] converted into US dollars.”
The lead plaintiff for the victims, James Owens, was a security guard injured in the Tanzania attack.
BNP was laundering money for clients in Sudan in the years leading up to the bombing — money that went directly to funding an al Qaeda training camp, the suit alleges.
The bombing falls outside the time period (2004 to 2012) of BNP’s settlement with the Justice Department.
BNP spokeswoman Cesaltine Gregorio declined to comment.
Separately, the DFS fined Deutsche Bank $361.2 million (US $258 million) on Wednesday for laundering funds for Iran.
That brings the total amount of fines against sanctions-violating global banks and advisers to more than $17.2 billion (US $12.3 billion).
“I can’t tell you that every single one of the banks is going to be sued,” Mr Fay said, “but I suspect, with the number of victims in terrorism, there are going to be a number of them sued — and they should get sued.”