US sanctions 11 firms tied to Iran bank

Penalties bar transactions between firms and US citizens, freeze their assets in US jurisdictions.

Bank Melli 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bank Melli 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Obama administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 11 companies tied to an Iranian bank that the United States and others say is helping to fund Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The penalties announced by the Treasury bar any transactions between the firms, which are either owned by or linked to Iran's Bank Melli or its subsidiaries, and US citizens and freeze any assets the firms may have in US jurisdictions. The companies targeted by the sanctions include several manufacturing and investment concerns in Iran, along with holding firms based in Dubai and some with offices in the Cayman Islands, the Treasury said in a statement. "The international community has recognized the proliferation risks posed by Iran's Bank Melli," said Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey. "We will continue to take steps to protect the integrity of the international financial system by exposing the banks, companies, and individuals supporting Iran's nuclear and missile programs." The United States and the European Union have designated Bank Melli a proliferator and the UN Security Council has called on all countries to closely monitor activity between financial institutions in their jurisdictions and Iranian banks, notably Bank Melli, due to concerns that may be aiding Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The companies designated by Treasury on Tuesday include the Bank Melli Iran Investment Company and Bank Melli Printing and Publishing Co., which are both directly owned by the bank and based in Iran. The bank's investment company, with a current market capitalization of more than $1 billion, is one of the largest publicly listed companies on Iran's Stock Exchange and owns stakes in more than 100 companies, according to Treasury. It owns or controls five of the other affected firms: Dubai-based BMIIC International General Trading Ltd. and Melli Investment Holding International and Cement Investment and Development Company, Mazandaran Textile Company and Melli Agrochemical Company, which are all headquartered in Iran. The new sanctions also apply to MEHR Cayman Ltd. and First Persian Equity Fund, which are either based or have offices on Grand Cayman Island and are linked to Bank Melli or a subsidiary, as are the Iran-based Mazandaran Cement Company and Shomal Cement Company.