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realclearworld

Iran’s stealth financial partners in Latin America

Ambassador Otto Reich in the Miami Herald:

Iran’s stealth financial partners in Latin America

While the United States and NATO keep watch over Iran’s activities at its nuclear facilities and the Strait of Hormuz, the Islamic Republic has been outflanking the West with the help of anti-American regimes in Latin America.

As a response to Iran’s continued efforts to build an atomic bomb, President Obama recently announced new measures freezing Iranian assets in this country. At the same time, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, publicly warned of a possible Iranian attack on U.S. soil.

Iranian presence in several countries of the hemisphere has been documented, but many activities remain a mystery. One unconventional mechanism developed by Iran, with the help of Venezuela and Ecuador, is a way to bypass the economic sanctions, as Iran may be using a parallel financial system operated by members of ALBA countries — the Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia-Ecuador-Nicaragua axis — to elude financial sanctions by the West and engage in money-laundering.

According to confidential bank reports, in November 2008 the Central Bank of Ecuador authorized the establishment of “a mechanism for deposits and payments to facilitate foreign trade” with Iran. In closed sessions, the Central Bank of Ecuador approved a system allowing the confirmation and payment of letters of credit for foreign trade transactions between it, the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) and the International Development Bank in Caracas (BID).

By that time, both the EBDI and the BID had been already added by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) to the lists of Specially Designated Nationals as companies that do business with Iran’s defense establishment. The documents show that the Central Bank of Ecuador knew about and decided to ignore this fact when signing the agreements with Iran and Venezuela. Mere days after the signing of the agreement, EDBI extended credit facilities to the BCE for $40 million for “importation of Iranian goods and services to Ecuador.”

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