Middle east

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Iran used bank accounts in Britain to secretly transfer money worldwide as part of an extensive scheme supported by Iranian intelligence agencies to circumvent US sanctions, as confirmed by the British newspaper “Financial Times”.

The newspaper revealed details from documents showing that British banks Lloyd’s and Santander provided accounts for fake British companies secretly owned by an Iranian petrochemicals company subject to sanctions, with headquarters in central London.

The Iranian commercial company for petrochemicals, controlled by the government, was part of a network accused by the United States of collecting hundreds of millions of dollars for the “Quds Force”, the external arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and working with Russian intelligence agencies to raise funds for Iran-affiliated militias.

The Iranian National Petrochemical Commercial Company and its British branch have been under US sanctions since November 2018.

Documents, email correspondences, and accounting records indicate that during that time, the British branch of the commercial petrochemical company continued to operate from an office in Grosvenor Gardens in Belgravia, central London, using a complex network of fictitious entities in Britain and other countries, according to the newspaper.

In response to the report, the Spanish bank Santander stated that it does not violate US sanctions on Iran based on an internal investigation conducted by the bank, as reported by Reuters.

The spokesperson said, “We have policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with sanctions requirements, and we will continue to proactively work with the relevant British and American authorities.” He added, “When identifying sanction risks, we will investigate and take appropriate action.”

A spokesperson for Lloyd’s stated that the group sought to ensure compliance with sanction laws and was committed to complying with economic crime laws and regulations, adding that they could not comment on individual clients. He said that the activities of the British bank “are conducted in a manner that respects sanction laws”.

The United Kingdom and the United States imposed sanctions this week on what they termed the “cross-border assassination network” overseen by Iranian intelligence, which targeted activists and opponents, including those residing in Britain.

A source close to Lloyd’s confirmed that the client mentioned in the newspaper is not subject to British or American sanctions.

A spokesperson for Santander Bank in the United Kingdom, speaking to the French news agency AFP, stated that the bank “has not committed any violation of US sanctions according to our investigations”. She added, “We have policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with requests related to sanctions, and we will continue to deal proactively with British and American authorities.”

She clarified that she could not discuss specific clients or “information related to suspicious activities reported to the authorities, due to legal restrictions”.

The British Foreign Office, in response to a request from AFP to comment on the matter, stated that “Britain has identified more than 400 individuals or entities related to Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, human rights violations, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons”, refusing to discuss “potential future sanctions”.

European banks, such as Italy’s UniCredit and Britain’s Standard Chartered, have faced significant sanctions in the past due to sanctions on Iran. The Italian bank paid $1.3 billion to US authorities to settle investigations.

Standard Chartered Bank agreed to pay $1.1 billion in 2019 to US and British authorities for financial transactions violating sanctions imposed on Iran and other countries.

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