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Sanctions scandal may force top BNP Paribas executive out: sources

NEW YORK--Top BNP Paribas executive Georges Chodron de Courcel could step down under U.S. pressure as the French bank tries to resolve accusations it violated U.S. sanctions, sources told AFP Thursday.

With BNP facing a reported possible US$10 billion in fines or even the loss of a key U.S. banking license in the case, de Courcel, the bank's chief operating officer and a member of its board of directors, is one of the top names on a list of employees U.S. authorities have said they want gone from the bank, the sources said.

But the list does not include BNP chairman and former chief executive Baudouin Prot, reported as a target by the Wall Street Journal, one source said.

The sources, requesting anonymity, said the giant French bank, under pressure to admit charges it violated U.S. sanctions laws, has informed the U.S. Justice Department and the New York state banking regulator that de Courcel is leaving.

The New York regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, has demanded de Courcel's head for months, but the longtime BNP executive, 64, has dragged his heels.

BNP is accused of breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba between 2002 and 2009, and is facing the toughest penalties yet dealt out by the U.S. authorities in such a case, according to sources.

U.S. and British newspapers have put the fine at a possible US$10 billion.

But the negotiations of a settlement are still underway. French President Francois Hollande has pressed his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama to intervene over what French officials say is excessive punishment.

Hollande raised the issue again with Obama Thursday evening when they met for dinner in Paris.

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