Thursday 29 September 2016

Bank of Ireland at odds with Irish stance on Iran trade

Published 05/02/2016 | 02:30

Iranian Embassy in Dubln sought an AIB account
Iranian Embassy in Dubln sought an AIB account

Bank of Ireland will not be removing its restrictions on Iranian-related banking transactions despite the lifting of sanctions last month, the Irish Independent has learned.

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While Irish companies are being encouraged to explore opportunities in the country, Ireland's two main banks appear wary. AIB declined to comment when asked its plans.

Iran emerged from years of economic isolation when world powers lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic in return for Tehran complying with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions.

It's hoped that global companies that have been barred from doing business there will be able to tap into the market of almost 80 million people.

Enterprise Ireland is targeting various sectors, including healthcare and financial services, in its push to get access for Irish exporting companies. But Sean Davis, EI's Dubai-based regional manager Middle East & North Africa, said companies that want to do business in Iran will need financial and banking support.

"From a banking perspective, it does mean that client companies are going to need their bank to resume normal business, and that is going to take some time as well," Mr Davis said. "There are a number of different factors for trade to revert to what we might call normal."

Bank of Ireland said that while certain sanction restrictions in relation to Iran have been lifted since January 16, "ongoing complications and risks persist, including the continued application of US primary sanctions".

The latter relate to terrorism and human rights violations.

In a statement, Bank of Ireland pointed out that it adheres to European Union, HM Treasury, United Nations and US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Financial Sanctions requirements.

"For these reasons, Bank of Ireland is still not in a position to process Iranian-related transactions," the statement said. "The matter is, however, kept under constant review." State-owned AIB declined to comment when asked about its intentions.

The Iranian embassy in Dublin, which currently operates without banking facilities, said the Iranian foreign ministry had sent a letter to AIB requesting that an account be open.

The Iranian Ambassador to Ireland said the ministry had opted for AIB because it is Government owned. AIB declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the ambassador also said that he had been given indications that Ireland's embassy in Tehran would soon be reopening. The source of the indications are not known to this newspaper.

In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was "conscious of the political, economic and trade factors" in favour of opening an embassy in Tehran.

Irish Independent

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