The United States slapped sanctions Tuesday on Valiollah Seif, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, accusing him of helping the country’s Revolutionary Guard Corps transfer millions of dollars to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
In the second move in a week taking aim at the money networks of the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC, the US Treasury also blacklisted a second central bank official, Iraq’s Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its top two executives, and a liaison between IRGC and Hezbollah, which Washington has designated an international terrorist group.
The Treasury said Seif covertly moved “hundreds of millions of dollars” to Hezbollah from IRGC via Al-Bilad Islamic Bank.
Tuesday’s action seeks to cut off what the US called a “critical” banking network for Iran, and deny those blacklisted access to the global financial system.
“The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”
On Thursday, the Treasury announced sanctions against a “large-scale” currency exchange network serving the Revolutionary Guards, hitting six individuals and three companies at the centre of the network.
At the time, the US singled out the Central Bank of Iran as “complicit” in the operation, foreshadowing Tuesday’s action.
The move against Seif came one week after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord and signalled plans to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian economy, and especially on the economic power of the Revolutionary Guards.
A European official said that some senior figures in the US administration were pushing for a “North Korea scenario” in Iran, in reference to the drastic sanctions imposed on the North Korean regime which Washington believes helped push the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, into halting missile and nuclear testing and agreeing to renewed negotiations.
The blacklisted head of Iraq’s Al-Bilad Islamic Bank was named as Aras Habib, who ran in last weekend’s general elections as a candidate on the slate of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, whose government has been supported by the United States and the international community. He is expected to gain a seat in the newly elected assembly.
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