British banks trading in
The Americans have also contacted a whole range of international banks trading in and from
These warnings do not simply accommodate US dollar-based transactions, but include any dealings of any kind, and in any currency. They are unequivocal; do business with
These warnings have had very serious implications for those Iranian banks which operate in London, some of which are in fact British institutions, and who having been in business here for many years, are regulated by the FSA.
Quite what right the Americans have to tell British banks who they may do business with is not clear, and to threaten them that if they clear British Sterling transactions for Iranian banks, that they will subject them to Patriot Act interdictions in the US, should be a matter of significant concern to the British Government, if for no other reason than it would seem to be a direct contradiction of the much-publicised ‘special relationship’ which we are supposed to enjoy with them.
And what has been the response from H.M Government to this news?
It can be best expressed as ‘studied indifference’!
It seems that the British Government under Tony Blair was not only willing to be George Bush’s tame poodle abroad, but was also quite content to stand by and do nothing while Bush’s agents swaggered around the City of London, threatening our banks with dire consequences if they continued with their lawful business.
Behind this scandalous scenario, lurks a hostile agenda, aimed directly at the commercial interests of
For years, the
More recently, the
The most immediate catalyst for this increased pressure adopted by the
Bank Saderat plc is not a branch of the Iranian entity, but a wholly-owned subsidiary, an entirely British Bank which has been doing business in
When the real facts are examined however, what is known and can be independently confirmed is that the most recent examination by the IAEA has demonstrated that Iran is generally in compliance with their internal requirements, and more importantly, that the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate judged, with "high confidence,” that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. CIA
This most recent announcement however has not stopped some
Whatever the realities of these different situations, why should these issues be considered sufficient to permit America to dictate to British banking institutions how and where on the globe they should be allowed to exercise their right to do business, and why does H.M.Government remain silent?
In 2007, the United Nations issued a short and limited sanctions list aimed at specific entities and individuals in relation to the provision of arms and related ‘materiel’. In the same notice, it continued to assert the rights of
The Bank of England has issued its own very short list of proscribed persons and entities against whom they determine that trading sanctions exist. Subject to these provisions, British Banks are free to do business with whomsoever they decide.
When the Americans first alleged that Bank Saderat’s London entity was responsible for moving money to Hezbollah in Beirut, the bank’s management wrote first to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), completely refuting the allegations in their entirety but asking for any evidence of such payments to be shared with them so that the bank could check the veracity of their compliance requirements.
At the same time, the Bank instructed a leading British Accounting Consulting firm to undertake a complete review of all payments they had made to their Beirut branches to ascertain the truth or otherwise of the allegations.
Bank Saderat plc did everything they could to determine the truth or falsity of these allegations made by the Americans, but despite all their enquiries and investigations, they were unable to identify any payments at all which were not made to established payment accounts in their
Their urgent requests for corroborative evidence to OFAC, fell on deaf ears. The Americans have to this date produced no evidence of any wrong-doing whatsoever. They have not even responded to the correspondence, yet they continue to skulk around the City’s streets issuing highly damaging threats to any bank which might contemplate conducting business with
This can be construed as nothing more than a unilateral campaign of economic sabotage and criminal disinformation, aimed at causing the highest level of financial damage to the Iranian economy with the ambition of bringing significant pressure on the Iranian people. Very sadly, these efforts have been working, and a large number of banks have acted in response to these threats. Clearly, they have taken the
Why should the Americans do this? Because, believe it or not, they really believe that this economic pressure will lead to a policy of regime change in
Last week, while in Kuwait I spoke to a US Customs agent who in a series of dismissive asides, stated that it was the determined policy of the present US Administration to put such economic pressure on the Iranian people so that it would encourage a popular uprising among the people, with the ambition that they would overthrow the present Iranian government.
After its efforts to ascertain any evidence which could point at a failure within its own compliance procedures, Bank Saderat sought the support of the BBA who subsequently wrote to the UK Treasury, setting out a series of concerns they had identified which were having direct impacts upon Iranian banks in
They gave examples identifying how a number of leading international banks conducting business in
· How a leading British institution had withdrawn
· How a major Swiss bank would not accept transactions in any currency either on its own account or for third party accounts;
· How a major UK bank would not accept any transfer to third-party accounts in any currency if they originated from
The BBA’s letter identified the egregious nature of what it called the ‘informal’ actions of US Treasury Officials, striking at the heart of what
The BBA called for evidence, if it existed, to be produced by the USA, and called upon HM Government to provide more pro-active expressions of support for Iranian banks and to move from a stance which both the FSA and the Bank of England appeared to be adopting, of what was described as ‘studied neutrality’.
The BBA called for a meeting with officials to discuss these concerns!
And the response from H.M.Treasury?
An arrogant and dismissive 3-paragraph letter from Ed Balls who was Economic Secretary to the Treasury at the time, which wholly ignored all the points in the requests being made by the BBA for discussions.
The first paragraph contained a series of worthless platitudes about the Government and the banking sector working together to protect the City from illicit money flows, an issue which had not been addressed by the BBA because it was not germane; a paragraph which made an wholly irrelevant referral to the UN Resolution 1737, which again, was not part of the issues raised by BBA, because again, it was not germane; and finishing with a patronizing comment about the need for banks to make their own commercial judgements about whom they do business with.
Clearly, Balls, and those who advised him, thought that unlawful US threats to British banks and their commercial interests were not worthy of comment, and merely fell among the ordinary and relevant information which financial institutions should take into account when deciding with whom they could do business!
The British Government has so effectively sold the pass to the Bush Administration, that they can no longer be bothered to protect those commercial interests, nationally valued rights which once would have guaranteed a very stern riposte indeed. The New Labour Government has poodled so effectively that they will now stand, idly by, wagging their tail, while Bush’s Treasury attack dogs force their will on the international banking sector with impunity.
The true measure of a genuine friendship is that one friend can tell the other when they are behaving wrongly or in an improper way, without the information causing a rift in the relationship. It is about time that H.M.Government started to stand up to their