Iran approves anti-money laundering bill

TEHRAN (AFP): An Iranian arbitration body gave its approval on Saturday to an anti-money laundering bill seen as crucial to maintaining international trade and banking ties, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“The bill on amending the law to counter money laundering was approved with certain changes and will be sent to the parliament speaker to be communicated to the government,” Expediency Council member Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghadam told IRNA.

The Expediency Council settles disputes between parliament, which approved the bill last year, and the conservative-dominated Guardian Council, which vets all legislation and had rejected it.

Conservatives have argued that new legislation on money laundering and terrorist financing will provide Western powers with leverage over Iran’s economy and how it funds regional allies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

But the government of President Hassan Rouhani says the laws are needed to meet demands set by by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors countries’ efforts to tackle financial crime.

Iran is alone with North Korea on the FATF’s blacklist — although the Paris-based organisation has suspended counter-measures since June 2017 while Iran works on reforms.

The FATF will meet again in February to discuss Iran’s progress.

The government is hoping to salvage banking and trade ties after the United States walked out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions.

The other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have sought to salvage the agreement and maintain trade with Iran, but have called on Tehran to meet FATF requirements.

The anti-money laundering bill is one of four pieces of legislation put forward by the government to that end.

A previous bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August.

Two others — allowing Iran to join UN conventions against terrorist-financing and organised crime — have been approved by parliament but are still being delayed by higher authorities, including the Guardian Council.

The Expediency Council currently has 38 members, all appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.