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Iran Approves Anti-money Laundering Bill

Iran Approves Anti-money Laundering Bill

Sunday, 6 January, 2019 - 11:30
An exchange currency dealer sits at his shop October 24, 2011. (File Photo: Reuters)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran's Expediency Discernment Council (EDC) approved Saturday an anti-money laundering bill, during the first meeting chaired by Sadeq Larijani who was appointed last week as the head of the Council.

The new bill will allow the government to execute several reforms in order to implement standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

"The bill on amending the law to counter money laundering was approved with certain changes and will be sent to the parliament speaker to be communicated to the government," Expediency Council member Gholamreza Mesbahi told IRNA.

The amendment is one of four proposed by the government in March to facilitate joining FATF, and the three regulations are: amending the anti-terrorism act, signing Combating the Financing of Terrorism(CFT), and signing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The parliament also passed two other bills allowing Iran to join to international treaties on the financing of terrorism and organized crime, but their approval was delayed by higher authorities, including the Guardian Council.

In mid-December, the secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaee, said CFT, FATF, and other conventions on organized crime and money laundry opposes the constitution and general policies.

The anti-money laundering bill is one of four of legislation put forward by the government to that end. A previous bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August.

The EDC is an assembly that resolves disputes between the parliament and the high legislative body of the Guardian Council of the Constitution. It currently has 44 members, all appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Iranian government has only one month to implement the criteria set by FATF, an international body to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

The list of FATF includes Iran and North Korea, although the Paris-based organization has temporarily suspended its measures against the country since June 2017, while Tehran is working on reforms.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told parliament in October that the remaining countries in the nuclear deal, including China and Russia, will require Iran to join FATF to facilitate banking transactions, denying it will falter activities of domestic bodies if Tehran agreed to FATF standards.

European countries say Iran's commitment to the FATF standards and its removal from the organization's black list are necessary to increase its investment, especially after the re-imposition of US sanctions on Tehran.

Iranian hardliners pointed that the legislation toward compliance with the FATF, will grant the Western powers influence on the Iranian economy and could hamper Iranian financial support for allies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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 rejected it, saying it was against Islam and the constitution.

Seven months after his harsh dismissal of parliamentary efforts to adapt FATF and other international conventions on money laundering, Supreme Leader Khamenei seems to have warmed to the reforms, which experts believe is aimed at preventing Iran’s economic collapse.

In recent months, several protests swept the country against economic hardship. The sanctions have depressed the value of Iran’s rial currency and aggravated annual inflation fourfold to nearly 40 percent in November.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed the sanctions on its banking and energy sectors, hoping to curb its missile and nuclear programs and counter its growing influence in the Middle East.

European signatories are still committed to the nuclear deal and seek to launch the mechanism, special purpose vehicle (SPV), aiming to sidestep the US financial system by using an EU intermediary to handle trade with Iran.

The director general of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, an advisory body set up by Khamenei, voiced his support for the FATF-related bills on Friday, according to Reuters.

Semi-official ISNA new agency quoted Abdolreza Faraji as saying: “It is better to finalize the FATF and CFT in the earliest time, so the Europeans have no excuse not to implement SPV mechanism.”

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