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Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)

Industry: 
Banking, Financial Services
States: 
CA
NC
Country: 
Belgium
Sources: 

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication ("SWIFT") is “a member-owned cooperative through which the financial world conducts its business operations.” “More than 9,700 banking organisations, securities institutions and corporate customers in 209 countries” use SWIFT services “to exchange millions of standardised financial messages.” (SWIFT Website. “Company information”)

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SWIFT provides services to Iranian banks sanctioned by the U.S., EU and UN. SWIFT has issued Business Identifier Codes (BIC) codes to sanctioned Iranian institutions, including major Iranian financial institutions designated by the United States.

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"While the US is likely to try to slow down Iran's reintegration into Swift, Swift is a European based organization subject to European law, Senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, James M. Dorsey told Trend. The expert was commenting on the recent news on Iranian Tose-e Saderat (Exports Development) Bank's announcement, as it plans to start talks with EU to re-establish its connection with SWIFT, as soon as EU court upholds its initial ruling for the removal of sanctions against the Bank. 'Ultimately, the U.S. will have to comply. Individual banks will however retain the right not to do business with Iran as will their account holders,' Dorsey underscored. Managing-Director of Iran's Tose-e Saderat Bank, Bahman Vakili said on Sept. 16 that his bank will start talks with EU bank officials to reestablish the SWIFT link between the two sides. 'We will negotiate with them on the re-establishment of SWIFT (the financial messaging provider for more than 10,000 banking organizations, securities institutions and corporate customers) connections after the EU court issues its final verdict,' Vakili told reporters in Tehran. He said his Bank is now waiting for the EU court's final verdict after it ruled in favor of Tose-e Saderat Bank in its initial ruling and called on the European countries to provide it with strong evidence to substantiate their claim that the Bank has acted against the international laws and has helped Iran's peaceful nuclear program. He added that since the EU members seem to have no corroborative evidence to substantiate their claims against the Bank, the court's final verdict will certainly be issued in favor of the Tose-e Saderat Bank, similar to what happened to Iran's Bank Mellat earlier this year." (Trend, "U.S. likely to slow down Iran's re-integration into SWIFT," 9/18/13)

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“The EU has blacklisted 14 of Iran's 30 banks for facilitating illicit activity, including terrorism. The U.S. has designated the 14 banks named by the EU as well as another six Iranian banks for supporting Iran's nuclear program and sponsorship of terrorism. Critically, the U.S. has also blacklisted all 30 Iranian banks for deficiencies present in the anti-money-laundering systems of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Swift, however, has barred only the 14 banks blacklisted by the EU, leaving the other Iranian banks free to work within the global financial system. This is a clear violation of Swift's own corporate rules, which state that services 'should not be used to facilitate illegal activities.' Moreover, given Swift's large physical presence in New York and its business dealings in the U.S., there are strong legal grounds to argue that it is subject to U.S. law, which would mean it is violating that as well. U.S. banking regulators and Treasury officials have an obligation to make Swift stop its dealings with Iranian banks or cease business operations in the United States.” (Wall Street Journal, "Despite Sanctions, Iran's Money Flow Continues," 6/24/13)

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"Republicans and Democrats are pressuring congressional negotiators to produce legislation imposing the severest penalties on Iran, targeting its energy sector and financial institutions as the United States seeks to weaken Tehran economically and derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons . . . The lawmakers also said any legislation should include sanctions on insurance companies that knowingly provide coverage to an entity that has already been penalized. They also are pressing for sanctions on the directors and shareholders of organizations like SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, unless they stop providing services to the Central Bank of Iran." (Fox News, "Lawmakers press for tough Iran sanctions bill," 7/27/12)

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The SWIFT 2010 Annual Review reported that Iran’s 19 member banks and 25 connected institutions had sent 1.160 million FIN messages and received 1.105 FIN messages. Compared to 2009, this represented a 0.7% growth in FIN messages sent and received. (“SWIFT Annual Review 2010,” April 2011)

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"The committee proposed that the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, shut out Iran's central bank and other financial institutions from the system used to move money between banks around the world. Because of the bill, European regulators ordered SWIFT to disconnect designated Iranian financial companies from its messaging system, the first time the electronic payment system had expelled any banks... It extends sanctions originally aimed at SWIFT to all financial messaging service providers, and bans third-country entities from accessing electronic banking systems on Tehran's behalf, the aide said." (Reuters, "US Senate to consider new Iran sanctions Thursday," 5/17/2012)

 

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“An organization that is central to the international banking system said it is working with U.S. and European governments to address their concerns that its financial services are being used by Iran to avoid sanctions and conduct illicit business. Current and former U.S. officials said that if the Belgium-based organization, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, bans sanctioned Iranian entities from using its network, Tehran could find itself virtually incapable of conducting electronic financial transactions. 'This would be the knockout blow,' said Avi Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who has worked on Swift... Swift's board of directors is comprised of executives from some of the world's most important banks. This week, activist group United Against Nuclear Iran wrote to board members arguing that they are acting outside U.S. law by allowing designated Iranian banks to use Swift's services. They argued that Swift's guidelines mandate that its cut ties to Iran.” (The Wall Street Journal. "Banking Hub Adds to Pressure on Iran," 2/4/12)

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"The Senate Banking Committee unanimously approved a new regimen of anti-Iran sanctions on Thursday that would for the first time threaten to punish the global financial telecommunications network that nearly all banks rely on to conduct their daily business. The legislation's banking provision, aimed at forcing the telecommunications network to expel Iranian banks that have already been blacklisted, would be financially catastrophic for Iran if carried out fully, according to proponents and sanctions experts. Expulsion from the network - the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift - would deny to Iran many billions of dollars in revenue from abroad that is routinely routed into its domestic banking system. 'The Senate Banking Committee has sent a strong message,' said Mark D. Wallace, the president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group based in New York that has been pushing for such a provision. He has argued that Swift, which based in Belgium, is already in violation of other sanctions against Iran as well as its own rules. "Swift must end its business in Iran," he said. The legislation does not specify what action would be taken against Swift if it did not comply. There was no immediate comment by Swift on the legislation. But officials of the network, mindful of pressure from Mr. Wallace's group and others that have increasingly advocated stricter sanctions against Iran, denied it was acting illegally, in a statement posted earlier Thursday on the network's Web site." (The New York Times. "Senate Panel Approves Potentially Toughest Penalty Yet Against Iran’s Wallet," 2/3/12)

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"In a sign that the sanctions could tighten further, United Against Nuclear Iran, a New York-based advocacy group that has successfully promoted other economic penalties against Iran, said it had started a campaign to publicize Iran’s dependence on the global financial telecommunication network that nearly every financial institution uses to conduct business. On Monday the group sent a letter to the network, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift, warning it to end all relations with Iran’s central bank and 'deny access to all Iranian banks.' The letter asserted that Iran’s membership in the network already violated American and European financial sanctions as well as Swift’s own rules. There was no immediate comment to the letter from either Iran or Swift, which is headquartered in Belgium. Mark D. Wallace, president of United Against Nuclear Iran, said in a telephone interview that the group might seek Congressional hearings on Iran’s Swift membership, which he described as crucial to the country’s economic survival. 'This campaign has the potential to force action,' Mr. Wallace said. 'In some ways it’s a silver bullet. If the Iranians don’t have access to Swift, they can’t get access to revenue.'" (The New York Times. "Iran Praises Nuclear Talks With Team From U.N.," 2/1/12)