Proposal for Iran to Join Global Convention Against Money Laundering Stymied by Its Leader

Iran Focus

London, 23 Jun – When considering major bills like the proposal to join the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC), the legislative body will take into account Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “full directives”, according to the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani.

The Supreme Leader has voiced his disapproval of this bill. He called the bill “unacceptable” June 20, saying the UNTOC, a measure meant to fight money laundering and terrorism funding, had been “cooked up” by foreign powers, and that the parliament should shelve it.

“It is not necessary to join conventions the depths of which we are unaware of,” he said. Instead, he proposed that parliament create its own laws to combat money laundering and terrorism funding.

Placing Iran alongside North Korea, at the top of the list of countries with the highest economic and financial risks for nearly two decades, The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a G7 initiative to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, has brought tough banking restrictions on Iran. The restrictions can be eased if the country joins the UN convention and accepts other reforms demanded by FATF.

Four bills were introduced by President Hassan Rouhani’s government last November. It was believed that they might pave the way for Tehran to join the UNTOC, and ease financial pressures on the Islamic Republic. To date, none have passed.

Parliament recently suspended debate over the bills for two months. According to analysts, the opposition to joining the convention is that it would hinder Tehran’s financial assistance to its allies abroad, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Palestinian group, Hamas. Both groups are considered terrorist organizations by the United States and other governments.

Several members of parliament claim that they have received threatening anonymous messages warning them not to support the bills.

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the ultra-conservative Friday prayer leader for the city of Mashhad, publicly labelled supporters of the bill as “traitors” and indirectly threatened them with assassination.

Tehran’s outspoken MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, called out “the seven-headed dragon of the [Islamic Republic’s] banking system” that has opposed the recent bills proposed by President Rouhani’s government.

The Basel Institute on Governance ranked Iran as the world’s top global money laundering threat in 2016, for the third consecutive year. The 2016 Basel Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Index identified Iran as the highest money laundering risk out of 149 countries surveyed.

The Wall Street Journal commented, “Companies are hesitant to resume commercial ties with Iran because of money laundering concerns.”

On June 21st, state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) cited Ayatollah Khamenei as saying, “Major powers devise these conventions to suit their own interests, while other countries, whether in approval or fear, pass them as their own domestic laws.”

As the Supreme Leader, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters in Iran.

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