EghtesadOnline: A comprehensive system for exchanging information on combating money laundering pertaining to Bank Melli Iran, the nation’s biggest lender, has been established by the bank with the support of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance.
Gholamreza Panahai, a member of BMI’s board of directors and Meysam Nassiri Ahmadabadi, the head of the Economy Ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit and the High Council of Anti- Money Laundering, unveiled the system at a ceremony held in Tehran on Tuesday, the official website of the bank reported.
Panahi said BMI should play a leading role in combating money laundering, including the implementation of the Law of Combating Money Laundering passed by the parliament.
“Any revenues that emanate from illegal activities, and the exchange and deposit of any fund resulting from them, are subject to the law,” Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
He added that the main goal of the AML system will be to prevent any such funds from entering the banking system because “blocking the circulation of these monies will surely play an important part in the transparency and health of the economy”.
Moreover, if Bank Melli wishes to become a more serious player in the international banking system, it must adhere to global regulations and standards because it would be unable to conduct operations on an international scale without them.
“AML efforts would also boost the bank’s credibility and its ability to offer more transparent services to Iranian customers,” he added.
Panahi, who is also BMI’s deputy for foreign exchange and international affairs, said the AML system is another step in line with boosting the lender’s foreign credibility in terms of conforming to international standards.
According to the official, the first step toward this goal is “creating a culture of adhering to accepted standards and entrenching AML policies among its staff members, customers and managers of the banking system throughout the country”.
Panahi noted that the lender aims to continuously upgrade the system to evaluate suspicious bank accounts with the least amount of errors. He added that many more improvements will be made to the system within the next month to put the services offered by BMI within the framework of KYC (know your customer) guidelines and gain the approval of FIU.
“It is necessary for members of BMI’s board of directors and all staff members of its various branches to be well-versed in AML conformity,” he said.
On Saturday, Panahi had said, “A total of 1,200 Bank Melli staff members have completed online courses on standards devised by the Financial Action Task Force on combating money laundering.”
He announced that all BMI workers will soon undergo similar courses while those who complete the courses will receive a certificate that will be necessary for their continued presence in the bank.
In the Tuesday ceremony, the FIU chief reminded that as per a previous request from Iran, the country has until January 2018 to present the International Monetary Fund with a thorough report on its AML measures in line with FATF standards.
“In this regard and in light of the fact that Bank Melli currently possesses close to 50% of all the information pertaining to customer accounts held by the Iranian banking system, it plays an irreplaceable role in AML efforts and improving Iran’s stance in the international community,” Nassiri said.
More NDFI Resources
Last year, Bank Melli was able to employ more foreign exchange resources from the National Development Fund of Iran compared with the year before.
During the fiscal year to March 2016, the bank was authorized to use $245 million of forex loans allocated by the sovereign wealth fund, which were spent on the construction of four industrial projects.
That is while in the previous fiscal year to March 2017, “with the new openings made in the foreign exchange and international affairs of Bank Melli”, the lender was permitted to use $330 million of NDFI resources as part of its agency agreement with the fund.
As outlined by BMI chief executive, Mohammad Reza Hosseinzadeh, the lender allocated loans to seven major projects, one each in a province.
“These projects were implemented with the backing of Bank Melli in the form of more than 4.7 trillion rials ($120 million) of rial loans and $37.83 million in foreign exchange loans,” he added.
According to Hosseinzadeh, the aforementioned projects have been implemented in West Azarbaijan, Semnan, Fars, Mazandaran, Kurdestan, Gilan and Yazd provinces.