Failure to Join FATF Could Prove Costly
EghtesadOnline: Iran would have to pay a heavy price if it fails to implement standards set by the global anti-money laundering watchdog, says an expert on international affairs, who believes that the Islamic Republic should serve as an example for other countries in combating corruption.
"Our lack of cooperation with FATF will embolden Washington in its campaign of exerting maximum pressure on Iran and will help tighten the noose of sanctions against the country," Saeed Mohammadi also told the Iranian Diplomacy website in a recent interview.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force has long asked Iran to strengthen its legal framework to guard against money laundering and financing terrorism.
It said on Oc. 18 it had given Iran a final deadline of February 2020 to comply with international norms after which it would urge all its members to apply countermeasures, according to Financial Tribune.
Foreign businesses say Iran's compliance with FATF rules is crucial if Tehran wants to attract investors, especially after the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
France, Britain and Germany have tied Iran's compliance and removal from the FATF blacklist to a new channel for non-dollar trade with Iran designed to avert US penalties.
Mohammadi said the country's failure to introduce the requested reforms would create many problems for its banking system because other states, even friendly ones, would refuse to cooperate with it.
"If Iran does not comply with FATF rules, all international financial institutions would be asked to reconsider or end their relations with our banks, or close down their offices or branches in Iran. Iranian banks will also not be allowed to open new branches in other countries or expand their current branches," he said, adding that it means extra costs would be imposed on Iranian banks.
No Room for Concern
The analyst also said there is no room for concern when the government and Central Bank of Iran officials approve a legislation that needs to be passed.
Opponents argue that passing a legislation for joining FATF could hamper Iran's support for its allies, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, which the US lists as a terrorist group.
However, Mohammadi says compliance with FATF norms does not mean that the US or other countries would be able to impose their will on Iran and force it to act based on their own definition of terrorism.
"So it would be better not to build a wall around ourselves and instead move on the path of legitimate interaction and cooperation with the international community as an Islamic country and a pioneer in the fight against all forms of corruption," he added.
FATF has conditioned taking Iran out of its blacklist upon the ratification of four bills. In August 2018, Iran enacted amendments to its Counter-Terrorist Financing Act and in January 2019 amended its Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The so-called Palermo bill (International Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes) approved by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and CFT (Convention Against Funding Terrorism) have passed the Iranian Parliament but are not yet in force as the constitutional watchdog Guardians Council has not ratified them.
The parliament sent the bills to Expediency Council for arbitration, but the council has not issued a final verdict on the case.