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FATF Blacklist Damages Iran’s Economy, Government Spokesman Reiterates

Being blacklisted by the international money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will cause significant damage to the Iranian economy, Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman said Tuesday in a counter to political rivals who have opposed legislation by which Iran would accede to FATF rules.

Asked at a press conference whether joining the FATF would resolve all Iran’s problems, Rabiei said it would not “increase the country’s economic problems by self-sanctioning.”

In response to a question from Fars News Agency, which is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the spokesman said: “I guarantee that [as a result of being] on the [blacklist] there will be damaging consequences, a surge in the costs of trade, problems in export and bringing back currency [export earnings] to the economy, loss of friends’ and neighbors’ interest in working with Iran, and benefiting from international trade.”

President Hassan Rouhani has long supported joining the FATF. Parliament passed four bills regarding the FATF in 2018 but only two cleared the Guardian Council (GC). Another two − one concerning the UN’s Palermo convention on international crime, and a second on ‘financing terrorism’ − have been stuck at the EC, which arbitrates between state bodies.

Rabiei entered the fray with an opinion piece in Iran newspaper, which is affiliated to the government, on February 27, when he argued that being blacklisted by the FATF was Iran’s “second fundamental problem” after United States sanctions. “Being blacklisted [on February 21, 2020] has demonstrated its effects during the time of [US] sanctions and its consequences will show even more clearly in the post-sanctions time.”

Rabiei wrote that approving the FATF legislation would “remove another major obstacle from the path of prospering of industries, services and trade when the United States returns to the nuclear deal.” This would become possible, he said, once Washington lifted sanctions imposed since President Donald Trump in 2018 left Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)..

Directly tackling critics of the JCPOA and the FATF, Rabiei argued that joining the FATF was necessary to implement the ‘resistance economy’ advocated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. International trade, he explained, required leaving the FATF blacklist, which would continue to restrict Iran’s access to international banking channels whether or not the US eased sanctions.

Opponents of the FATF-accession legislation − which is under review by the arbitration body, the Expediency Council, after more than a year in limbo − argue that it could open Iran to punitive US action. Mojtaba Zolnur, chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy committee, told Fars News Agency Tuesday that FATF rules, including the Palermo and CFT conventions, would hamper Iran in circumventing US sanctions. He said it would “reveal trade partners, importers of Iranian goods, and our means of transferring money.”

Mohsen Rezaei (Rezaee), Secretary of the Expediency Council, has said that in order to persuade critics, President Hassan Rouhani had proposed to add a condition on joining FATF conventions that would allow Iran to withholding sensitive information relevant to evading sanctions.

Officials of the Rouhani administration and reformists have accused opponents of FATF accession of having a vested financial interest in thwarting transparency and anti-money-laundering laws. The only other country on the FATF blacklist is North Korea. FATF members – who host most of the world’s financial centers – are required to exercise enhanced diligence and counter-measures against blacklisted states.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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