African money laundering: Sherpa files a complaint against a BNP Paribas subsidiary in Monaco
Paris, on 13 November 2013
On 12 November 2013, Sherpa filed a complaint against BNP Paribas Wealth Management in Monaco with the Public Prosecutor in Paris on the charges of: aggravated fraud committed by an organised group, fraudulent handling, tax evasion and aggravated money laundering of the profits of criminal offence committed by an organised group.
Massive infractions of foreign-exchange controls
According to an internal report of a General Inspection by BNP Paribas dated from 25 October 2011, BNP Paribas Wealth Management in Monaco received and cashed tens of thousands of cheques each year between 2008 and 2011 at least. These cheques came from at least four African countries: Gabon, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Madagascar. The cheques were issued by French citizens and then embezzled and shipped to accounts in Monaco without their knowledge. Several hundreds of millions of euros are involved. The main purpose of this operation was to escape foreign-exchange controls as well as Tax Authorities. It cannot be excluded that it is also a mean to launder money from organised crime. French experts are talking about this case as the “African laundry”.
BNP Paribas obviously did not check where the cheques came from. On 25 May 2013, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, CEO of BNP Paribas admitted on radio channel France Info that “mistakes” were made and that “more attention should have been paid to the Monaco branch”. Despite this confession, BNP Paribas has increased its profits (1.36 billion euros in the third quarter 2013).
French President François Hollande in Monaco
Sherpa has raised the attention of the general prosecutor of Monaco on this case several times since 10 April 2013. Monaco justice seems to not pay attention to it. However, BNP Paribas Wealth Management must be held responsible for his actions before justice. The harm caused to the African states concerned is considerable: some are among the poorest countries in the world. Not to mention the harm caused to the French citizens who issued these cheques and whose trust was betrayed. That is why Sherpa brought the case to French court.
This case is just another example of the illicit financial flows from developing countries to tax havens. These are said to account for between 600 and 800 billion dollars each year. The automatic exchange of tax information, now encouraged by the G20 members for themselves, does not seem to apply to the poorest countries in the world.
During his visit to Monaco on 14 November 2013, Sherpa expects French President François Hollande to call out Monaco authorities for they are being too soft in the fight against money laundering. He should also speak in favour of extending the automatic exchange of tax information to developing countries.
Jean Merckaert, +33 (0)6 81 84 30 64, email@example.com
 http://www.franceinfo.fr/economie/patron-chef-d-entreprise/jean-laurent-bonafe-1000661-2013-05-25 (3rd minute) (French only)