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French banking giant BNP Paribas accused of complicity in Rwandan genocide

The French banking giant BNP Paribas has been accused of complicity in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, with three civil society groups filing a lawsuit claiming the bank transferred $1.3 million that was used to purchase weapons, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

The groups (Sherpa, the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda and Ibuka France) allege that one month after the U.N. implemented an arms embargo against Rwanda, the bank agreed to transfer the funds from the account of the National Rwandan Bank to a South African arms dealer's Swiss bank account.

They say the arms dealer then sold 80 tons of arms to Hutu Col. Theoneste Bagosora, who played a central role in the genocide and was sentenced in 2011 to 35 years in prison for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

NPR quotes the groups as saying that the bank would have known "the destination of the funds and knew it could contribute to the ongoing genocide."

This is not the first time BNP Paribas has been accused of violating embargoes. In 2014, it pleaded guilty to evading U.S. trade embargoes in order to help clients in Sudan, Cuba and Iran, for which it agreed to pay a $9 billion penalty.