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Influential Conservative Says Iran Will Meet FATF Requirements

Heated debate in the Iranian parliament on four bills designed to meet FATF requirements on anti-money-laundering and financing

A conservative former MP and a member of the Islamic Republic's influential Expediency Discernment Council (EDC) says that he's optimistic over the ratification of four bills regarding the international conventions against money laundering and financing terrorism.

Known collectively in Iran as the Palermo Bills, the legislation would pave the way for the country to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC), Combatting Financing Terrorism (CFT), and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) -- in the hope of reducing international pressure on Iran’s already deteriorating economy.

Originally proposed by President Hassan Rouhani in November last year, the bills have met staunch resistance from hardliners, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says the agreements have been “cooked up” by foreign enemies.

The bills have already been rejected by the Guardian Council (GC), the body responsible for ensuring the compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majles) with the criteria of Islam and the Iranian Constitution.

Meanwhile, a pro-reform MP, Mahmoud Sadeqi has once again insisted that the bills are supported by the majority of Iranian legislators provided they guarantee Tehran's access to international banking network.

Earlier, many MPs had supported passing the bills without any precondition, describing it as the "most important step" towards satisfying FATF's expectations from Tehran.

"Addressing numerous problems that Iran is currently struggling with, depends on passing the bill about countering the financing of terrorism (CFT)," the spokesman of the Iranian parliament's presidium, Behrouz Nemati has argued.

Former MP from Tehran, Tavakoli, believes that GC has not rejected the bills, but it has pointed out that some parts of the text related to the bills are not compatible with the country's constitution and need amendment.

Tavakoli has gone further by insisting that GC is not in the business of "approving" or "rejecting" the bills or parliamentary motions. "GC's responsibility is limited to checking the compatibility of the bills and motions with the criteria of Islam and the Islamic Republic's Constitution," Tavakoli asserted, adding, "The approval or rejection of the bills and motions are only up to the Majles (parliament) and EDC."

Calling MPs to avoid haste, Tavakoli believes that in the long run the bills will be passed since Khamenei has also accepted the fact that their ratification is in the interest of the establishment.
Nevertheless, Tavakoli's comments are in contrast with Khamenei's earlier remarks, dismissing the bills as "enemies' plot" against Tehran's interests.

“It is not necessary to join conventions the depths of which we are unaware of,” Khameni had said, proposing instead that parliament create its own laws to combat money laundering and terrorism funding rather than joining an international convention.

Out of four Palermo bills, only the first one has so far been approved by Majles and GC, and the fate of other three is in limbo.

FATF has given Tehran until February to either endorse the UNTOC or be added to its “black list” of countries refusing to cooperate in the fight against money laundering and financing terrorism.