Sanctions: talking Turkish banks with the US Fed

A Turkish bank is about to hand over the details of dollar transactions made in the second half of 2012 to the US Federal Reserve.

Ziraat Bank signed an agreement with the Fed in June 2014 to allow an independent consultant to review all US dollar clearing activity carried out between July 1 2012 and December 31 2012. This will give the US a clear view of who the bank was doing business with and for during that period.

US Federal Reserve

US Federal Reserve

The agreement published on the Fed’s website also requires the bank to submit a written compliance plan to enhance anti-money laundering (AML) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act, an enhanced customer due diligence (CDD) program and a revised suspicious activity monitoring and reporting system.

This is an extremely powerful statement from the Fed, showing the extent of its reach beyond US borders and into the transactions made by a bank in Turkey with only a branch office in the US.

Although the scrutiny is limited to US dollar clearance transactions, this information alone could reveal the identities of any dealings the bank may have had with sanctioned individuals or entities. As suggested by one Turkish politician, the Fed could be looking for information on transfers connected to Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab from Turkey to Iran.

Zarrab was named in a report from Reuters in April, connecting him to a criminal organisation that allegedly allowed Turkey to bust US sanctions in Iran.

EU sanctions on Iran and the cost of sanctions to the US

Turkey has a history of supporting Iran. A Turkish bank was used as an intermediary for oil payments from India to Iran up to February 2013, when EU sanctions prevented Euro transactions with Iran. Several nations forged an agreement in November 2013, to ease sanctions on Iran. This gives some leeway to India who is seeking to resume using the payment channel as soon as sanctions are lifted.

Man looks at Iranian Oil Tanker

Man looks at Iranian Oil Tanker – Nat Geo image

Meanwhile, a court in Luxembourg has annulled sanctions placed on the Iranian National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). The firm contested the EU’s 2012 sanctions, claiming the firm is privately owned by Iranian pension funds. In July, a court in Luxembourg decided there was no evidence that NITC was owned by the Iranian government and that the sanctions on NITC represented a ‘manifest error of assessment‘ by the EU. This is a great boost for NITC, who now has to wait another two months for an appeals to come forward before it can resume trading with Europe.

Sanctions on Iran have cost the US government USD$175bn, according to a study made by the National Iranian-American Council published in Time. The losses since the US started sanctioning Iran in the mid 1990s are apparent in US employment rates, particularly in California and Texas. The report comes at a time when western nations are working on a deal with Iran to scale back nuclear operations in return for reduced sanctions.

Source: Today’s Zaman

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