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U.S. investigates two French banks for sanctions violations: source

Logos are seen on a Credit Agricole branch in Paris, November 7, 2013. REUTERS/ Jacky Naegelen
Logos are seen on a Credit Agricole branch in Paris, November 7, 2013. REUTERS/ Jacky Naegelen

By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are investigating whether two French banks violated anti-money laundering rules and economic embargoes on countries like Iran, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Regulators in New York and Washington are looking at potential violations by Credit Agricole and Societe Generale of U.S. economic sanctions imposed against the countries, the source said.

In addition to the Iran sanctions violations, the investigation is looking at whether the banks broke embargoes against Cuba and Sudan, according to the source.

The agencies involved include the U.S. Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the New York State Department of Financial Services and the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the source said.

Spokespeople from the district attorney's office and the Treasury declined to comment.

SocGen disclosed in its latest annual report that it was engaged in discussions with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control over potential sanctions violations and that it had conducted an internal investigation and was cooperating with U.S. authorities, a spokeswoman, Laetitia Maurel, said in an emailed response to Reuters request for comment.

Spokespeople from Credit Agricole did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Credit Agricole has also disclosed in its annual report that it is reviewing whether it violated U.S. sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal reported the investigation on Friday.

Reuters reported in October that New York's top financial services regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, had asked four European banks, including Credit Agricole and SocGen, to hand over details of their transactions with a Jordanian bank and documents related to Turkey's Uzan family, which owes billions of dollars to Motorola Credit Corp.

Lawsky's office has probed several other banks on anti-money laundering violations. It has reached settlements with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which is owned by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, and Standard Chartered over allegations that the banks violated economic sanctions against countries like Iran.

(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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