German Central Bank Set to Bar $400 Million Cash Delivery to Iran

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Source: Legal Insurrection 

Bundesbank revises rules to bar ‘one of the largest cash transfers ever in German history.’

Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has revised its regulations to stop Iran from withdrawing €320 million ($400 million) in cash from the country’s bank accounts. Under the new conditions, the Bundesbank can stop cash transfers that violate US Treasury sanctions, the German newspaper BILD disclosed.

The drastic measure to physically ship the cash out of Germany demonstrates Tehran’s demising trust in the European financial institutions as the US Treasury tightens screws on the regime’s worldwide financial operations. The transaction is “one of the largest cash transfers ever in German history,” a spokesman for the country’s finance minister admitted.

Last month, the Iranian regime initiated steps to withdraw €320 million from German bank accounts and transfer the cash to Tehran. The money in question is held by Hamburg-based European-Iranian Trade Bank, in which the regime owns a majority-stake.

The BILD broke the story on Wednesday:

The Bundesbank has amended its general terms and conditions with regards to the ‘cash transactions.’ According to these terms the central bank can demand clarifications and guarantees from the counterparty seeking a cash transfer.

The central bank can refuse the transaction till procedures get clarified.

Even when no suspicion of terrorism financing or nuclear armament may exist, the Bundesbank can deny cash transfer—for instance in case of a US embargo. [Translation by the author]

In May, President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, calling the Obama-sponsored framework too weak to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear arsenal. Trump’s move triggered fresh sanctions on the regime. Urging allies to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, he warned “[a]ny nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

The latest Bundesbank measure should come as a blow to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has staked considerable political capital on saving the faltering deal. Merkel, a fervent backer of the deal, has been at the forefront of efforts to salvage the pact despite a US withdrawal.

She is also under pressure from German companies who are set to lose billions from the new US sanctions. German companies like Daimler, Siemens, and Airbus have been among the leading beneficiaries of the opening up of the Iranian market in the wake of the deal.

In July, Reuters news agency reported Trump administration’s efforts to stop the massive cash delivery to Tehran and the German government’s hostility to such a measure:

Richard Grenell, a longtime critic of the [Iran nuclear] accord, told the mass-circulation daily Bild that the U.S. government was extremely concerned about Tehran’s plans to transfer hundreds of millions of euros in cash to Iran.

“We encourage the highest levels of the German government to intervene and stop the plan,” Grenell said. (…)

Grenell’s comment drew a rebuke from Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, who said the transaction should not be blocked on political grounds if it passed legal muster.

“The statement of the U.S. ambassador is once again unsettling and difficult to reconcile with his diplomatic role,” Wadephul told Reuters.

“Merkel’s government—widely considered one of the most pro-Iran regime friendly European governments—has not commented on whether it will allow the roughly $400 million in cash to be sent to Iran to undercut the US sanctions campaign,” said Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), who covered the story for the Jerusalem Post.

It’s not just Germany’s Bundesbank that has taken similar steps. The EU-owned investment bank has also agreed to comply with the US sanctions. As Legal Insurrection reported in June, EU’s own lending arm, the European Investment Bank (EIB), has broken ranks with Brussels by rejecting the proposal to work in Iran. The EU bank fears that doing business with Tehran in violation of the US treasury regulations will hamper its ability to raise money on international capital markets, media reports suggest. ‏

Germany’s Bundesbank and European Investment Bank have shunned Iranian business, not primarily out of some moral consideration, but to avoid financial losses from litigation and secondary sanctions resulting from violating the US sanctions on Iran.

The Bundesbank’s “move could be politically precarious, as it could mean the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, which the European Union still hopes to salvage,” German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle noted. If the assessment coming from this state-run broadcaster is true, the Trump administration has scored a big win in its efforts to isolate Tehran.