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Rouhani Mounts Strong Defense of FATF Bills

Feb 27, 2019, 12:22 PM
News ID: 28226
Rouhani Mounts Strong Defense of FATF Bills

EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday strongly defended his government's initiative to comply with global anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism standards, saying failure to do so would be a blow to Iran's banking and financial ties with the outside world.

Rouhani, who was addressing the annual general assembly of the Central Bank of Iran, said if banking relations are harmed, the country would face problems  in exporting oil and importing goods. 

"We cannot do trade with suitcases. If it was about importing some spare part, then that could be possible. But when it comes to importing millions of tons of grains, the banking system has to do that," Rouhani was quoted as saying by the governments' official news outlet. 

"Decision-making in this country is either made by the government, the Majlis or the Leader. The Leader told me several times that he is not opposed to the four [FATF] bills and the government and Majlis also approve them. So who opposes it?" Rouhani asked, according to Financial Tribune.

In a meeting that was visibly overshadowed by the shock resignation of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif the night before, Rouhani said “the ministries of foreign affairs and oil plus the Central Bank of Iran are at the forefront of the economic war with the US.” 

The Expediency Council recently refused for a third time to come up with a definite vote on Iran's accession to the UN Convention on Transnational Crime, commonly known as the Palermo bill. 

Palermo bill is one of the four government bills that seek to bring Iran's anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism standards in line with international norms. Of the four FATF bills two have become law

Using unusually strong language in criticizing the FATF opponents, Rouhani said: "We should accept an iota of wisdom and prudence from the world. When all countries are members of an institution, does it mean none of them have wisdom and prudence?”

"We simply cannot hand over the country to 10-20 people and say we accept whatever decision(s) they make," Rouhani added, apparently referring to the final arbiter, the Expediency Council, from whose meetings he has recently been absent. 

Rouhani also referred to Iran's foreign trade data, saying that despite the US sanctions, in the 11 months to February 19 the country’s non-oil exports were worth $40 billion while imports reached $38.5 billion -- a $1.5 billion trade surplus.   

The anti-money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force, said Friday it has extended the suspension of countermeasures against Iran for another four months, recognizing the country's efforts in meeting its Action Plan.   

It said however that if by June Iran does not enact the remaining legislation in line with FATF Standards, then the FATF will require increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran. 

The FATF also expects Iran to continue to progress with enabling regulations and other amendments.