Germany allows US sanctioned Iranian 'terror' banks to operate
A number of the banks were sanctioned by the US in a bid to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions are operating within Germany.
By BENJAMIN WEINTHALPublished: APRIL 8, 2020 02:16Advertisement
The organization United Against Nuclear Iran published a report on Tuesday, disclosing that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is permitting Iranian banks sanctioned by the US government to operate within the federal republic.“The oldest Iranian bank operating in Germany is Bank Melli, established in 1965 in Hamburg. It is also Iran’s national bank, wholly owned by the Government of Iran (GOI), and its biggest company by revenue. The US Treasury sanctioned Bank Melli in 2018 for its support of the IRGC, having enabled the IRGC and its affiliates to move funds inside and outside Iran,” wrote the report’s author, Daniel Roth.The Trump administration designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist entity.The UANI report further noted: “Also in Hamburg is Bank Sepah, another state-owned sanctioned bank tied to Iran’s Ministry of Defense (MODAFL). Bank Sepah has provided ‘direct and extensive financial services’ to Iran’s key ballistic missiles procurement and development agencies, including Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) and its subsidiary, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG).”UANI continued: “The third Hamburg-based bank and perhaps most notorious of all is the European Iranian Handelsbank (EIH). Unlike the others, EIH is in fact incorporated and headquartered in Germany, with branches in Tehran and Kish Island. Since its founding in 1971, it has financed billions of dollars of German-Iranian trade and is majority-owned by the sanction-designated Iranian state-owned bank, Bank of Industry and Mine.”The report said that "The US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) has named EIH as a money-laundering threat, having assisted several of Iran’s top military and defense agencies, including the IRGC, the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) and AIO.”According to UANI’s website, the organization "is a not-for-profit, bi-partisan, educational and advocacy group that seeks to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons." UANI was founded in 2008 by Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Middle East expert Ambassador Dennis Ross.Holbrooke served as the US ambassador to Germany (1993-1994) during US President Bill Clinton’s tenure.UANI wrote that “Germany’s financial center, Frankfurt, is home to both Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat, which was set up in the same year as the Iranian Revolution, in 1979. With branches across Europe and the Middle East, Bank Saderat is another large state-owned bank that has helped the regime support its terrorist proxies, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).”The fifth bank is the Middle East Bank (MEB). The MEB opened its branch in Munich in 2019.UANI wrote that “there are reports that Sina Bank and Parsian Bank are also looking to set up in the Bavarian capital. Oddly, MEB is the only Iranian bank here not subject to ‘secondary sanctions’ – which exposes companies to penalties even outside US jurisdiction. On November 11, 2018, just three days after the initial application, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed the tag. It is unclear why OFAC did so, and the agency may wish to look again, but MEB advertises the fact prominently on its website. Nonetheless, MEB remains a risky, sanction-designated entity.”Germany remains Europe’s largest trading partner with Tehran. In 2019, German companies exported $1.64 billion worth of goods.According to the UANI report, the five Iranian banks are enabling trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran, while large German banks have avoided Iran because of sanctions.UANI wrote that “With less exposure to US markets and potential sanctions than the multinational household names, Germany’s Mittelstand [mid-size companies] are still willing to supply Iran’s demand for industrial goods. Given the records of the Iranian banks that are helping to facilitate it, however, the risks are only amplified.”The Jerusalem Post exclusively reported in 2018 that the German bank Varengold, in the city of Hamburg, conducts business with Iran Air – an airline sanctioned by the US government.The US classified Iran’s regime as the worst state-sponsor of terrorism. The Jerusalem Post reported in February and last year that German's foreign ministry celebrated the revolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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