FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2012
Contact: Nathan Carleton, [email protected]
Phone: (212) 554-3296
UANI Calls on Allied Engineering Group, Lebanese Central Bank to Close Lebanese Electronic Gateway for Iranian Funds
Letters Request Action to Ensure Lebanon will not Serve as a Sanctions Work-Around for Iran
New York, NY -Continuing its SWIFT campaign, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) called on the Allied Engineering Group S.A.R.L. (AEG) and Lebanon's Central Bank to end their relationships with Iranian banks and financial institutions, and prevent Iran from using Lebanon as a banking hub to avoid sanctions.
AEG is SWIFT's Beirut-based Regional Partner for the Middle East and Africa, and provides SWIFT services for more than 400 banks in more than 40 countries. AEG offers additional add-on electronic services to such institutions through its Beirut, Bahrain, and Egypt-based Service Bureaus (SB's).
UANI is concerned that AEG and its SB's will serve as a continuing gateway and electronic work-around for Iranian funds. UANI called on AEG to confirm unequivocally that it will not allow Iranian institutions to use it and its SB's as a work-around following the expected termination of Iranian SWIFT access.
UANI also called on Banque Du Liban, Lebanon's Central Bank, to publicly clarify its work with Iranian institutions and rigorously police AEG's activities to ensure that Lebanon will not become a hub for Iran to avoid sanctions. The Iranian regime and its proxies are widely known to use Lebanese banks and money exchanges.
In a February 20 letter to AEG General Manager, Dr. Mohamed Sadek, UANI President, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:
SWIFT's action to end its work in Iran is significant yet such action may be diluted in the absence of like-minded action from AEG. AEG, as SWIFT's regional partner servicing Iran, has been silent on its intentions and on the current scope of its relationship to and provision of products and services to Iranian sanction-designated financial institutions. UANI remains particularly concerned that, as SWIFT ends it services to Iranian designated institutions, AEG will provide a communications "workaround" for such Iranian institutions through its Service Bureaus and/or through the provision of its own financial communication products and services.
Accordingly, please immediately:
1. Identify any and all Iranian sanction-designated institutions that AEG provides products and services to;
2. Confirm that AEG shall terminate any and all business relationship by and between AEG and any Iranian sanction-designated financial institution, and;
3. Confirm that AEG shall not provide the goods, services and/or means to permit any such Iranian sanction-designated financial institution to "work-around" the restrictions on money transfers resulting from SWIFT's termination of services.
In a separate letter to Banque du Liban Governor, Riad T. Salamé, Ambassador Wallace wrote:
As you know, unfortunately, the SWIFT system and Lebanese banks and money exchanges have been used by Iran and its terror proxies to facilitate the finance of Iran's nuclear weapons program, finance terrorist activities and to provide the financial support necessary to brutally repress the Iranian people. As recently as 2011, the United States Treasury Department identified the Lebanese Canadian Bank as a Hezbollah money laundering enterprise. At the time it was Lebanon's 8th largest bank. The United States Department of Justice subsequently launched a money laundering and forfeiture proceeding that sought the recovery of more than $480 million from various Hezbollah related entities including Lebanese financial institutions. Those institutions included both bank and "money exchange" companies that utilized electronic funds transfers through SWIFT as a primary means to transfer money to be laundered.
UANI calls on you and the Banque Du Liban to ensure that AEG terminates its relationship with Iranian financial institutions. In addition, we call on you and the Banque du Liban to cease Lebanese business with any and all Iranian sanction-designated financial institutions including Bank Saderat.
Given the insidious influence of Hezbollah in Lebanese financial institutions including banks and money exchanges, Lebanon and the Banque Du Liban have a higher duty to the international banking community to demonstrate that they are not complicit - knowingly or unknowingly - in facilitating Iran's effort to avoid international sanctions. Lebanon must be transparent in its relationships with Iranian banks and must ensure that Lebanon is not used as the base of operations for institutions like AEG and Bank Saderat to assist Iran in avoiding international sanctions.
UANI launched its SWIFT campaign on January 30, by submitting to SWIFT a detailed legal explanation of how SWIFT violates U.S. and EU sanctions by providing Iranian banks with access to the international financial system. Members of the U.S. Senate immediately drafted an amendment to sanction SWIFT, and last week SWIFT announced plans to terminate its relationships with Iran's banks and financial institutions.
UANI has requested replies from AEG and Banque Du Liban by February 28, 2012.