Germany tightens cash transfer rules as Iran seeks funds

A man holds a stack of Iranian Rials in front of a shop in Tehran on July 31, 2018. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
Updated 05 August 2018
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Germany tightens cash transfer rules as Iran seeks funds

  • Iran wants to bring home 300 million euros ($353 million) it has in the European-Iranian Trade Bank ahead of new US sanctions
  • Iran seeks to repatriate cash held in a Hamburg-based bank

BERLIN: Germany’s central bank is changing its terms and conditions to provide for deeper scrutiny of cash transfers, a move that comes as Iran seeks to repatriate cash held in a Hamburg-based bank and the US presses allies to get tough on Tehran.
Iran wants to bring home 300 million euros ($347 million) it has in the European-Iranian Trade Bank ahead of new US sanctions. German authorities have been examining the request for weeks, and the US has made clear its concerns about potential terrorist financing and money-laundering.
Changes to its business conditions taking effect Aug. 25, and released in late July, allow the Bundesbank to block cash transfers in the absence of assurances from those involved in a transaction that it doesn’t violate financial sanctions or rules to prevent money-laundering and the funding of terrorism. It also mentions possible risks to “important relationships with third countries’ central banks and financial institutions.”
The changes don’t specifically mention Iran, but are widely viewed as a reaction to the transfer request.
“We are grateful to our German partners at the chancellery and throughout the government for recognizing the need to act,” US ambassador Richard Grenell told The Associated Press on Saturday. “Iran’s malign activities throughout Europe are a growing concern for us.”
The German finance ministry said this week, after Germany’s Bild daily reported on the new Bundesbank rules, that the Iranian request is still under consideration — a process that involves Germany’s financial market regulator and financial intelligence unit.
The matter is awkward for Germany because the government is also committed to keeping alive the 2015 deal with Iran which provides incentives in exchange for Tehran not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Iran has indicated it will stay aboard as long as the remaining signatories stick to the deal and it continues to enjoy economic incentives.
President Donald Trump’s administration began dismantling the sanctions relief that was granted to Iran under the deal in June, a month after Trump announced the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the accord.


Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

Updated 18 June 2019
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Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

  • The PM said cabinet ministers need to be united and responsible
  • Lebanon’s debt is almost 150% of its GDP

BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.
The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.
“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.
Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.
Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.
Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.
“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.
“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.
After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)