U.S. tells banks to guard against Iranian activity
WASHINGTONIran is desperate to get access to foreign currencies, particularly dollars and euros, and is exploiting weak spots in the global financial system in an effort to move funds and evade economic sanctions, U.S. officials say. The Treasury Department warned U.S. banks to be vigilant in monitoring attempts by Iran to move money through currency exchange houses and trading companies based in non-sanctioned countries.
The Treasury Department has identified transactions that conceal Iranian companies and account holders. According to the Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Adam J. Szubin, individual payments are often in the range of tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars and the transfers typically occur over a period of six months and then cease. Though Szubin declined to specify the total dollar amount transferred through these types of transactions, he did say that they should raise "a red flag" at the trading houses enabling the transfers.
When asked if the Obama administration intended to take action in response to what Szubin termed an "evolving and emerging threat", he replied "watch this space." He also noted that the U.S. is pursuing a number of cases and does have jurisdiction to take enforcement action against an exchange house.
Dubai, Turkey, and Malaysia are popular trade hubs and locations for Iranians to keep personal accounts. Treasury's Szubin declined to specify the exchanges or origins of these particular transactions but did say that they were not limited to one particular country.
Last month, HSBC agreed to pay a record fine of $1.9 billion dollars to settle charges that it transferred billions of dollars for nations like Iran and enabled Mexican drug carters to move money through its U.S. subsidiaries. Lloyds TSB and Credit Suisse have each paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle similar charges.
The Obama administration has attempted to cut the government of Iran off from the global financial system in an effort to pressure it to abandon its nuclear program.
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