Iran foreign minister urges government to join money laundering watchdog

There’s an internal fight underway in Iran over whether the country should join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the international coalition combating money laundering and terrorist financing — and it’s pitting hardliners against those who want more economic alignment with the West.

FATF has given Iran until June to join or face being added to a financial blacklist, a move that could further cripple its economy by affecting trade and financial dealings with the EU and other FATF member states.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Tuesday that not joining the FATF would “harm the national interests of the country.” Iran was taken off the blacklist in 2016.

His comments to the Iranian Labour News Agency came just days after Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body that vets legislation, issued an unprecedented statement saying Iran’s membership in FATF would be a “strategic mistake.”

On Monday, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, the committee that resolves differences between the parliament and the Guardian Council, echoed the assembly’s stance. Rezaei said that the majority of the council stood against joining the international body.

Efforts to join FATF began in November 2017 when President Hassan Rouhani pushed for the ratification of two of four of the organization’s requirements. Despite early ratification, the bill took two years to get final approval by the Expediency Council and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, passing in January 2019.

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