Jan 10, 2007

U.S. Moves Against Iranian Bank

This case has it all: Iran, missiles, WMD research, and North Korea.

They left out Osama.

The Bush administration, tightening the financial vise on Tehran, moved Tuesday to block the assets of a major Iranian bank suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.

The action against Bank Sepah, Iran's fifth-largest state-owned financial institution, means any banks accounts or other financial assets belonging to the bank found in the United States must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the financial institution.

"Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network and has actively assisted Iran's pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. ...

The department alleges that Bank Sepah provides financial support and services to Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization as well as to two Iranian missile firms - Shahid Hemmat Industries Group and the Shahid Bakeri Industries Group. The United States has previously accused all three of helping to spread weapons of mass destruction.

The government said that Bank Sepah is the "bank of choice" - at least since 2000 - for Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization, a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, that oversees all of Iran's missile industries and is the overall coordinator of Iran's missile program. ...

The government also alleged that the bank has facilitated business between the Aerospace Industries Organization and North Korea's chief ballistic missile-related exporter, KOMID, which the government says has provided Iran with missile technology.

"The financial relationship between Iran and North Korea, as represented by the business handled by Bank Sepah, is of great concern to the United States," Levey said.

Levey said Tuesday's action applies to all branches of Bank Sepah, including those in Paris, Rome and Frankfurt, its wholly-owned subsidiary in London, as well as more than 290 branches based in Iran. The bank's Rome branch, he said, conducted a "great deal" of the transactions the United States is concerned about.

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