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Thursday, October 23, 2008

U.S. Treasury sanctions Iran bank, 3 offshoots including one in Venezuela

WASHINGTON — The United States has identified and sanctioned an Iranian bank used to evade previous sanctions against another Iranian bank used in the procurement of components for weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. Treasury Department said the Export Development Bank of Iran supplies financial services to the Iranian Defense Ministry and military, Middle East Newsline reported. Treasury said Iran has been employing EDBI as a front to evade U.S. and United Nations sanctions.

"Iran has adopted a strategy of using less prominent institutions, such as the Export Development Bank of Iran, to handle its illicit transactions," Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said on Oct. 22.

Officials said the role of the Export Development Bank of Iran increased after the United States and United Nations imposed sanctions on Bank Sepah in 2007. They said Export Development served as an intermediary for Bank Sepah's payments related to Iranian procurement of weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration also imposed sanctions on three companies alleged to have been owned or controled by the Export Development Bank of Iran. The companies were identified as EDBI Stock Brokerage, and EDBI Exchange, both based in Teheran, and Venezuela's Banco Internacional De Desarollo.

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The Treasury decision was designed to freeze assets of the Iranian bank in the United States as well as ban American business. Officials said they were not certain whether the bank, established in 1991, held assets in the United States.

"Today's action exposes EDBI's role in helping Iran violate UN sanctions so that financial institutions around the world can take appropriate steps to protect themselves," Leavy said.

"However, the EDBI provides financial services to multiple MODAFL-subordinate [Defense Ministry] entities that permit these entities to advance Iran's WMD programs," Treasury said. "Furthermore, the EDBI has facilitated the ongoing procurement activities of various front companies associated with MODAFL-subordinate entities."

"In addition to handling business for Bank Sepah, the EDBI has facilitated financing for other proliferation-related entities sanctioned under U.S. and UN authorities," Treasury said.

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