BERLIN – A senior aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his trips
in 2012 to Vienna to circumvent sanctions, according to the Simon Wiesenthal
The aide launched a money laundering operation to acquire
technology for the Islamic Republic, Dr. Shimon Samuels, the center’s director
for international relations, told The Jerusalem Post during a phone interview on
“Austria is a hub of abuse for money launders. This is not a
Jewish or Israeli issue. This is a European issue. This is a weak link in the
chain of banking,” Samuels said.
He called on the EU to monitor its
member countries and penalize Austria for its failure to enforce Iran
Writing in the British Daily Telegraph in late October,
foreign affairs correspondent Damien McElroy first reported on the Iranian
agent, who is a senior departmental director from Iran’s Center for Innovation
and Technology Cooperation. The US Treasury Department has sanctioned both the
agent and the Center for Innovation and Technology Cooperation for illicit
nuclear proliferation activity.
According to the Telegraph report, “At
least two visits this year to Vienna by a senior departmental director have been
used to carry out transactions worth millions of euros, according to sources.
Western officials confirmed the official is a regular visitor to the Austrian
capital and has traveled for extended stays each year since 2007.”
agent’s network involves deliveries that are “handed to money lenders in
Austria, Germany and Italy. Payments from the network have been documented as
transfers to accounts as far as Russia and China to pay for goods that are
subsequently sent to Iran,” the Telegraph continued.
In a telephone
interview with the Post on Saturday, a spokesman for Austria’s Interior Ministry
said there is “no criminal investigation” in connection with the agent and the
center. Asked if the Austrian domestic intelligence agency probed the money
laundering operation and the center, he said, “The findings are not public.” The
Interior Minister spokesman referred to sections of the domestic intelligence
agency’s 2012 report about Iran’s activities in Austria.
According to the
2012 report, “In the period under review, concrete proliferation-relevant
activities were observed in connection with North Korea and Iran.” The report
noted, “It can be assumed that these developments will continue in 2012 and that
the conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran will intensify.”
slammed Austria’s laxity toward Iran sanctions. “This is not a new story for
Austria. Austria has been behaving like this for a while,” he said. It is
disturbing that the Austrian authorities remain indifferent because Austrian
banks are “down the road from the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he
The IAEA is the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog
“Austria is behaving today with proactive neutrality like
Switzerland during World War II... serving the devil and working both sides of
Samuels added that the modern Austrian state came into
formation “after WWII on the basis of neutrality, but neutrality means
obligations to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the
Council of Europe.”
Samuels plans to raise his organization’s concerns
about Austria at the next OSCE meeting.
Asked about Samuel’s criticism of
Austria’s behavior and its conduct recalling the Swiss during the Second World
War, the Austrian Interior Ministry spokesman said he would not comment
“concretely on the WWII period” and the parallel to the Swiss.