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CRIMINAL

Frenchman fined for pillaging ancient sites

A 60-year French champagne producer received a six-month suspended sentence and a €200,000 ($270,000) fine on Friday for stealing ancient objects from archaeological digs and selling them on.

Frenchman fined for pillaging ancient sites
Roman coins. File photo: AFP

French police stopped the man and his wife for a routine traffic check two years ago and found 112 Roman coins in the car.

His wife was fined €3,500 for complicity.

Between 2009 and 2012, the man made dozens of trips to archaeological digs in the region just east of Paris.

During his trial, he said he thought he was acting within the law.

"I looked around on the ground. The objects were there. All I had to do was pick them up," he said.

When police searched his house, they found a veritable museum of objects, ranging from ancient coins and pottery pieces to rings and necklaces.

The court convicted the man, who has not been named, of conducting archaeological digs without permission, selling the proceeds, and illegal possession of archaeological objects.

His ill-gotten gains were ordered returned to the state.

His lawyer, Denis Tailly-Eschenlohr, said the fine was "extremely heavy and totally disproportionate", adding that his client would lodge an appeal.

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CRIMINAL

Goldman Sachs fears BNP Paribas guilty plea

The head of US bank Goldman Sachs has warned that guilty pleas from rivals BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse, under legal proceedings in the United States, could hurt the financial system.

Goldman Sachs fears BNP Paribas guilty plea
BNP Paribas Chief Executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe. Photo: AFP

The head of US bank Goldman Sachs has warned that guilty pleas from rivals BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse, under legal proceedings in the United States, could hurt the financial system.

The two European banks, under probes for violating US sanctions and abetting tax evasion, are potentially facing very heavy fines that could reach billions of dollars.

US authorities are urging the banks to plead guilty and have threatened criminal prosecution, which could lead to the revocation of their licenses — potentially forcing other banks to determine whether to continue doing business with them.

Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, asked about the issue on the sidelines of the bank's annual shareholder meeting Friday in Texas, said it would be difficult to stop doing business with the two European banks.

Given the many ties between the world's banks, the resolution of the case could affect internal credit relationships within the financial system, Blankfein said, according to comments reported by The Wall Street Journal.

"It becomes a very weighty decision to cut someone off, and we wouldn't do it lightly."

He said the impact "depends on what the consequences of the guilty pleas are."

According to the Financial Times, Blankfein also warned that "for us to not deal with someone would be a further risk to the system."

Accepting a guilty plea — which no bank has done in the United States in two decades — could have serious consequences for the operations of the two banks, exposing them to damages claims.

In similar cases, US banks have been fined heavily but not forced to plea guilty.

BNP Paribas is accused of having violated US sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan between 2002 and 2009. The bank's chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe came to the US to make his bank's case last week.

Credit Suisse is facing prosecution for its part in helping rich Americans hide their assets to avoid US taxes.

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