Economy, Business And Markets

Iran: Money Laundering Probe for Bank Accounts

AML Probe for Bank AccountsAML Probe for Bank Accounts

As per the directive notified by the Iranian National Tax Administration, bank accounts with an annual turnover of over 50 billion rials ($1.19 million) are subject to anti-money laundering probes in case of suspicious activities.

According to the directive published late Saturday on INTA's website and reported by other domestic websites on Sunday, provincial and local tax authorities are obliged to scrutinize bank accounts whose aggregate debits and credits exceed 50 billion rials for any dubious money laundering activities.

The measure, which had been a contentious issue among different bodies, was first slated to target bank accounts with 5 billion rials ($119,000) but was later increased to 50 billion rials as part of an agreement between Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian and Justice Minister Alireza Avaei.

The unprecedented move is in line with recent steps taken by Iran to step up its Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism initiative, as it tries to improve its international image and court major global lenders.

Years of sanctions had cut off Iranian banks from the global financial scene the country hopes to reenter after the 2015 landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and P5+1 countries– the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. However, residual US sanctions as well as deficiencies in Iranian banks' AML and CTF frameworks have substantially hindered this process.

The country is also striving to amp up its share of tax revenues as a way to curb the economy's historic addiction to oil.

Seyyed Kamel Taqavinejad, the head of INTA, put the annual figure of tax evasion in the country at 155 trillion rials ($3.7 billion), of which 50 trillion rials ($1.19 billion) were reclaimed during the last fiscal year to March 20, 2017.  

In mid-November, President Hassan Rouhani submitted to the parliament the bill aimed at joining Iran to the International Convention for Combating the Financing of Terrorism, the United Nations' treaty designed to criminalize financing of terrorism, in addition to promoting cooperation to prevent and investigate the financing of such acts.

One week later, the president presented two bills for making amendments to the current Law of Combating the Financing of Terrorism and the Law of Anti-Money Laundering.

The country took a major stride toward upgrading its banking and financial laws closer to international standards when it passed the AML legislation in 2016.  

The organization will assess progress made by Iran and take all appropriate actions at its meeting in February 2018, but until Iran implements the measures required to address its deficiencies, the organization “will remain concerned with the terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat this poses to the international financial system”.

The Financial Action Task Force–the international organization in charge of preparing the AML/CFT frame work–in November updated its document on engagement with Iran and urged the country to fulfill its commitments by its deadline of Jan. 31, 2018.

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