WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The Bush administration issued a new warning to U.S. banks on Thursday that Iran’s state banks are using deceptive practices to disguise Tehran’s involvement in nuclear proliferation and terrorist activities.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, said it sent an advisory warning banks of what it called weaknesses in Iran’s first anti-money laundering law, which was passed in February. FinCEN said the deficiencies in Iran’s anti-money laundering regime were “exacerbated” by Tehran’s continuing attempts to conduct prohibited weapons proliferation activity and terrorist financing.
“Through state-owned banks, the government of Iran disguises its involvement in proliferation and terrorism activities through an array of deceptive practices specifically designed to evade detection,” FinCEN said.
It said Iran’s central bank and several commercial banks have requested that their names be removed from global transactions in order to disguise their identity. The Treasury has prohibited U.S. transactions with a number of Iranian state banks, including its largest, Bank Melli, and Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat.
The Bush administration has been waging a campaign to cut off Iran from the international banking system to put financial pressure on Tehran, which Washington accuses of trying to develop nuclear weapons and provide financial support for terrorists. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Dan Grebler)