September 9, 2009 / 12:05 PM / 10 years ago

NY prosecutor targets bank over Iran links-report

* District attorney eyes action within a month

* Signals probe of Venezuelan banks over Iran ties

NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said he plans to act within a month against a large “mainstream” bank over illicit links with Iran, and signaled he is investigating Venezuelan banks over potential illegal ties to Iran, the Financial Times said on Wednesday.

In an interview with the newspaper, Morgenthau said he was following up a prosecution of Lloyds TSB (LLOY.L) over the illegal transfer of $300 million in Iranian cash with a case involving a larger sum.

“Hopefully, within the next 30 days, we will have a case against another mainstream bank,” he said. “It’s complicated because you have got to get everybody on board, because the bank, even though they will admit what they’ve done, does not want to settle with us” and then have to deal with regulators such as the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Earlier this year, Lloyds agreed to pay $350 million to settle a money-laundering case.

In a speech on Tuesday, Morgenthau said he believed Banco Internacional de Desarrollo CA, a unit of Export Development Bank of Iran, had relations with Venezuelan banks and banks in Panama to give it access to the U.S. financial system.

“The ostensible reason the Iranian-owned bank Banco Internacional de Desarrollo was opened in Caracas was to expand economic ties with Venezuela,” he said in his prepared comments. “Our sources and experiences lead me to suspect an ulterior motive. A foothold into the Venezuelan banking system is a perfect ‘sanctions-busting’ method — the main motivator for Iran in its banking relationship with Venezuela.”

The Venezuelan Embassy in Washington declined to comment to the newspaper.

A copy of Morgenthau’s speech is available at the website of Global Financial Integrity (http://www.gfip.org.). The entity describes itself as promoting “national and multilateral policies, safeguards and agreements aimed at curtailing the cross-border flow of illegal money.” (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by John Wallace)

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