International

U.S. urged U.K. to take action against Iranian banks: WikiLeaks

Senior U.S. officials urged British banking regulators two years ago to take more draconian action against Iranian banks suspected of financing nuclear and conventional missile programmes, leaked U.S. embassy cables show.

Hector Sants, chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, was forced to defend the regulator’s record on Iran — particularly Bank Sepah — to the state department under-secretary Reuben Jeffrey and U.S. treasury assistant Patrick O’Brien.

At a meeting in May 2008, detailed in a cable a month later, the U.S. encouraged the U.K. to “step into a leadership role” to deter a “nuclear-armed Iran” by stopping the activities of Iranian banks in London.

O’Brien told FSA executives that Iran was using state-owned institutions — Bank Sepah, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat — to facilitate its proliferation efforts and its support for terrorism.

He expressed particular frustration about Bank Sepah, which was the subject of official international sanctions.

“With four Iranian banks continuing to operate in London, O’Brien said that Middle East and Asian countries are not likely to take any action on its Iranian banks unless London moves first,” the cable said. “If the U.K. acted publicly, the U.S. would be willing to take message to the Middle East and Asia to press for similar action in other jurisdictions.” All Iranian banks operating in London are subject to sanctions. Bank Sepah declined to comment, Bank Melli did not respond, while Bank Saderat strongly rejected any idea that it was involved in facilitating terrorism or proliferation programmes. Bank Saderat’s Richard Wetton said the bank had asked for evidence of the accusations from the U.S. “These accusations are completely political,” he said.

Sants defended the FSA, saying it needed evidence of specific actions being taken by individuals. His colleague Phil Robinson said “the FSA had ‘pushed the boundaries’ of what it can do in looking at the parent entities in Tehran, and must prove the ‘intent’ of the person transferring the money,” the cable reported.

“All the Iranian banks are ‘keeping their noses clean’ in the U.K., explained Robinson, and the FSA can only address actions of the London-based subsidiaries,” the cable said.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 12:53:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/U.S.-urged-U.K.-to-take-action-against-Iranian-banks-WikiLeaks/article15592882.ece

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