US Targets Iran Guard Finance Network With Sanctions

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019 - 16:30
Washington- Asharq Al-Awsat

The US Treasury took fresh aim Tuesday at the international network funneling dollars and euros to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), naming 25 individuals and entities for financial sanctions.

The targets were front companies of the IRGC-controlled Ansar Bank and Ansar Exchange that have collectively been able to move more than $1 billion for the Tehran regime, the Treasury said.

The funds have benefitted both the IRGC and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, according to a Treasury announcement.

"We are exposing an extensive sanctions evasion network that was established by the Iranian regime to evade American sanctions," US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook told reporters. "With this action today we are increasing our pressure even further on the Iranian regime."

Hook described Ansar as "the banker" of the Revolutionary Guard and its overseas operations run by Quds Force. He said the bank paid the salaries of IRGC-Quds Force employees and Iranian foreign fighters in Syria.

"They created front companies to access the US financial system on their own," said Hook, adding that Tehran was feeling the pressure from US sanctions and created the network to look for a way around the restrictions.

Additionally, Hook said the United States was also labeling Iran's Ministry of Defense as a foreign terrorist organization because of its role in supporting terrorist activities. The ministry was blacklisted in 2007 for its role in weapons of mass destruction proliferation, he added.

"We are now expanding our authorities against Iran's ministry of defense for its support for terrorism," Hook told reporters at the State Department.

The sanctions seek to lock those named out of the global financial system by banning US citizens and US businesses -- including international banks with a US presence -- from doing business with them.

"Any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates significant transactions for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to US sanctions," the Treasury warned.

In addition, key figures in Ansar Bank and Ansar Exchange were designated for sanctions.

"This vast network is just the latest example of the Iranian regime's use of deceptive practices to exploit the global financial system and divert resources to sanctioned entities," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

Washington has stepped up economic pressure on Iran since President Trump decided to withdraw last year from the 2015 agreement to freeze the country's development of nuclear weapons, saying Tehran was "not living up to the spirit of the deal."

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