'Iranian assets in Europe funneled back to Teheran'

UK paper says Ahmadinejad authorizing transfers in light of fears Iranian financial institutions may come under EU sanctions.

Ahmadinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian assets held in Europe are being funneled back to Teheran using financial intermediaries in Dubai, the UK's Daily Telegraph has reported. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly authorized the transfers in light of rising fears that Iranian financial institutions might come under European Union sanctions. The Iranian government has, according to reports of Western diplomatic officials, ordered Bank Melli to transfer funds currently deposited in Europe back to Iran. This comes after German banking authorities raided a branch of the bank in Hamburg in May. The Germans demanded that Bank Melli freeze its operations until an investigation had been completed. According to the Telegraph, EU officials are weighing an EU-wide ban on the bank. However, European officials suspect that the majority of the bank's assets will have been transferred back to Iran before any such actions can be implemented. The officials were reportedly worried that Dutch banking intermediaries might be assisting in the transfer of assets back to Iran via Dubai. While there is no implication that Dubai is directly assisting the activities, it has been known to have intimate economic ties with Teheran, with an estimated 10,000 Iranian companies being headquartered in the emirate. This, according to the Telegraph, renders any suspicious banking transfers difficult to detect. The move, according to Iranian media, has caused tension between the president and the governor of Iran's central bank, Tahmaseb Mazaheri. The Iranian reports said Mazaheri might resign as a result. Mazaheri took over the leadership of the central bank in 2007, replacing outgoing governor Ibrahim Sheibani, who resigned due to Ahmadinejad's attempts to influence the central bank's actions. The US has been pressuring the EU to level sanctions against Iranian financial institutions suspected of involvement in funding Iran's nuclear program and its support of terrorist organizations across the Middle East. In March, the US convinced the UN Security Council to adopt resolution 1803, which tracks two specific Iranian financial institutions - the Melli and Saderat banks. Belgium is also weighing its own options for sanctions over Teheran's refusal to cease uranium enrichment activities.