Sunday, January 13, 2019

US launches global initiative against Iranian funds to Hezbollah - Ariel Kahana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by Ariel Kahana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

Measures to focus on compelling Iran to meet international rules for the prevention of money laundering, stem the flow of funds to terrorist groups

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is initiating a global initiative to fight illegal Iranian economic activity around the world, which will focus primarily on the transfer of funds to terrorist organizations, Israel Hayom has learned.

The United States also intends to intensify pressure on Iran in international bodies, chief among them the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded by G7 countries to combat money laundering.

The American initiative will focus on compelling Iran to meet international rules for the prevention of money laundering and, as stated, stem the flow of funds to terrorist groups. Iran, it has been well documented, gives vast sums of money to the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, and to Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The White House intends to expose Iran's illicit behavior and bring to bear legal and public pressure to force the Islamic republic to change its ways.

Aside from its own direct measures, the U.S. has also asked various European governments to help target Iran's economic activities on the continent. American officials have told their European counterparts that the administration was prepared to invest considerable resources to expose Iran's financial operations, and would share its information with European authorities to help them indict the perpetrators. The administration is still waiting for the European response.

Iran is aware of the international pressure against it on the money laundering front. On Saturday, a powerful Iranian council approved an anti-money laundering bill in a step toward reforms to bring the country in line with global norms.

Foreign businesses say Iran's compliance with FATF standards and its removal from the organization's blacklist are essential if they are to increase investment, especially after re-imposition of the U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

However, Iranian hardliners have opposed passing legislation toward compliance with the FATF, arguing it could hamper Iranian financial support for its terrorist allies such as Hezbollah.

Iran's parliament last year passed the anti-money laundering bill, one of four amendments Iran needs to implement to meet FATF requirements, but the Guardian Council, a vetting body, rejected it, saying it was against Islam and the constitution.

On Saturday, the Expediency Council, a body intended to resolve disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, approved the bill with some changes, Iran's state news agency IRNA said, quoting a member of the council.

Seven months after his harsh dismissal of parliamentary efforts to adapt to FATF guidelines and other international conventions on money laundering, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seems to have warmed to the reforms, a reversal that experts say is aimed at preventing Iran's economic collapse.

In recent months, cities have been rocked by demonstrations as factory workers, teachers, truck drivers and farmers protested against economic hardship. The sanctions have depressed the value of Iran's rial currency and aggravated annual inflation fourfold to nearly 40% in November.

Ariel Kahana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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