EghtesadOnline: The bank accounts of Iranian nationals living in the UK currently face no problems, as was suggested by a recent article published by the British newspaper the Guardian, according to two officials familiar with the matter.
"Based on our talks with British officials on the one hand and Iranian nationals on the other, the principal matter of UK banks deciding to close the bank accounts of Iranians is false and there have been no new developments concerning this issue," Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador to the UK, told ISNA.
On Friday, the Guardian published an article quoting a UK law firm, Blackstone Solicitors, which has reportedly received more than 60 complaints by Iranian nationals who have had their bank accounts closed "because of their nationality".
As Baeidinejad pointed out, "We were surprised about the way the article was covered in the Iranian media because embassy members and a lot of our colleagues working on different levels all have [bank] accounts in England and they say no such thing has happened to them."
According to Financial Tribune, the ambassador noted that the embassy made inquiries from Iranian nationals, businessmen and traders living in the UK, "all of whom were also surprised and confirmed that their accounts are active".
Baeidinejad said the Iranian media took the wrong impression from the article and generalized the problems of a select number of accounts to those of all Iranians. He added that the article—by linking the matter to international sanctions, the nuclear accord (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and the US administration–has resorted to journalistic machinations to prove its point.
"However, the main portion of the blame goes to Iranian media who covered the issue in a careless manner," he said.
The Iranian ambassador referred to the fact that the British publication had earlier published such reports by referring to complaints filed by firms dealing with a limited number of people. Even in the case of Blackstone, he adds, the Guardian clearly stated that the firm has secured compensation for almost all the individuals from the banks and only one case has been unsuccessful.
Not Limited to Iran
Baeidinejad elaborated that such account closures have not been limited to Iranian nationals because they are a result of "new regulations that have been devised to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism", the implementation of which is a "legal requirement" for banks.
Asked whether the account closures are in any way related to nuclear sanctions, the diplomat said, "Banking regulation has nothing to do with nuclear negotiations, the JCPOA or recent developments related to US stance on the JCPOA."
The chief executive officer of Iran-owned Persia International Bank based in London also corroborated the statements of the ambassador, saying this is not a new thing.
"I have not heard anything about the closure of bank accounts belonging to Iranians living in the UK and as far as I know, no new problems have recently arisen in this regard," Mohammad Reza Meskarian also said in a talk with IRNA.
The banker said any money that comes to the UK from Iran through banks in an official manner is in accordance with the rules and is not deemed problematic in the eyes of the banks, "but if the money transfer is in the form of cash or through a money exchange and is then wired to the account, it can have a negative effect on English banks with regard to money laundering, which might prompt them to act against the account holders".
The PIB chief said a number of financial transactions originating from Iran, which did not conform to UK's banking standards, were the reason behind the closure of the accounts. This is has not, however, been limited to Iran "and other countries are also facing similar problems".
Meskarian noted that correspondent relations between Iranian and British banks have yet to be reestablished, which itself plays an important role. But either way, clarity regarding the source of money is of utmost importance from the perspective of UK banking laws "and is not related to the nationality of individuals".
However, the CEO admits that the victory of Donald Trump in the US elections has seemingly affected the conduct of major European banks, especially British banks, and "has made them more conservative and stricter".