German-based bank tied to Iran defies closure order

Hamburg-based bank to mount legal challenge to EU sanctions because of its involvement in Iran's nuclear program.

EIH Bank 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
EIH Bank 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The Hamburg-based bank Europäisch- Iranische Handelsbank (EIH) defiantly announced on its website that it will not have to “discontinue its operations.”
According to a report in the German-language edition of the Financial Times on Thursday, EIH will mount a legal challenge to the European Union decision to sanction its operations because of its involvement in Iran’s nuclear-proliferation program.
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The Financial Times said it was the first instance of a EU-sanctioned institution seeking to invoke EU-legal measures to prevent its closure.
Harald Hohmann, a German- export lawyer representing EIH, told the paper that the proof does not meet the standards of closure, and he will litigate the matter before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Last Monday, the EU listed the EIH as a sanctioned entity, froze its accounts and prohibited the 27 EU member countries from engaging in financial transactions with the German-based bank. The EU explained that EIH conducted business with other sanctioned Iran banks.
“As of October 2010, EIH was continuing to act as a conduit for payments by sanctioned Iranian banks, including Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat,” the EU statement read.
Berlin had snubbed its Western allies – France, Britain and the United States – who went to great lengths since 2008 to convince the Merkel administration to shutter EIH due to its role in financing Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
The US Treasury sanctioned EIH last summer because it serves as a key financial hub for financial transactions in Europe that are linked to Iran’s proliferation efforts, as well as to its military program.
Meanwhile, EIH said on its website that it “has always strictly complied with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and EU regulations.”