Victims of Sudan violence file complaint against BNP Paribas

FILE PHOTO: A BNP Paribas logo is seen outside a bank office in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - Nine people who say they are victims of rights abuses by the former government of Sudan filed a legal complaint against BNP Paribas <BNPP.PA> in a French court alleging the lender was complicit because it financed Khartoum.

BNP Paribas said in a statement provided to Reuters it was not aware of the complaint having been opened and that it did not comment on judicial proceedings.

The French complaint said that the U.S. Department of Justice had described BNP Paribas as Sudan's de facto central bank because it gave the Sudanese government access to international money markets, and allowed it to pay staff, the military and security forces.

At the same time, Sudanese forces were waging a campaign of violence in Sudan's Darfur region that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has since characterized as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

"From 2002 to 2008, the Sudanese government – through its military and security forces and Janjaweed militias – committed widespread human rights violations that led to the death of more than 300,000 Sudanese civilians," the statement from the victims and their lawyers said.

"We call on the French authorities to promptly open an investigation to determine whether BNP is criminally responsible for its dealings with Sudan", said Michel Tubiana, one of the victims' lawyers.

The victims have not said what punishment or compensation they are seeking at this stage in the judicial process.

BNP agreed in 2014 pay an $8.97 billion penalty to settle U.S. charges it transferred billions of dollars for Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban entities subject to economic sanctions.

Sudanese victims did not receive any compensation following the settlement, as the U.S. Congress diverted the funds to victims of domestic terrorist attacks.

In a similar case, twenty-one refugees from Sudan now living in the United States filed a class action against BNP Paribas in 2016. [nL2N22Y0XR]

(Reporting by Simon Carraud and Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by Maya Nikolaeva, Editing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood)