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Foreign Ministry Defends Zarif Comments On Money Laundering

pokesman of Iran's Foreign Ministry, Bahram GHasemi (Qasemi), undated.

The Islamic Republic Foreign Minister's recent comments on "many individuals" who "benefit from money laundering" in Iran have triggered a wave of enraged responses from the conservative camp controlling most of the state apparatus.

Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier lambasted "many" unnamed individuals of blocking the passage of the bills related to money laundering, to collect more benefits.

"The amount spent for creating an atmosphere against these bills is equal to the Foreign Ministry's budget,” Zarif was cited as saying November 11 on the local website Khabar Online.

The foreign minister went on to accuse state organs, that he refrained from naming, of mounting the campaign against the Palermo Bills.

"We cannot challenge the scenes set by these wealthy and mighty state-organs,” he said.

Following the remarks, some members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) described his comments as "spiteful" and "unsubstantiated."

Commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Friday Prayer Leaders across Iran, and other figures appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly opposed the passage of UN-sponsored conventions against financing international terrorism and money laundering.

The wave of enraged responses to Zarif's comments prompted the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi (Qasemi) to defend his boss.

Lambasting the critics, Ghasemi said on Wednesday, November 14, that Zarif's remarks are neither "new" nor "revealing".

According to Ghasemi, "Several officials had already talked about the problem and stated that finding a solution to the issue of money laundering has been emphasized by the Islamic Establishment."

Describing Zarif’s remarks as a "realistic approach" to the side effects of money laundering, Ghasemi accused the opponents and critics of using financial resources to create psychological pressure against the legal measures by the government…to promote financial transparency.

Ghasemi added, "The fact that some Iranian or international criminal gangs are involved in money laundering is an undeniable reality.

Meanwhile, Chairman of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iranian Parliament, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, said the issue will be addressed next Sunday, November 18, with Zarif present.

“A number of lawmakers have reacted to the foreign minister’s remarks on money laundering and have requested the documents to prove such comments,” the state-run Mehr news agency (MNA) cited Falahatpisheh as saying.

Four Bills proposed by President Hassan Rouhani's government would pave the way for Tehran 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 troubled 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 FATF has given Tehran until February to either endorse the UNTOC or be added to its “blacklist” of countries refusing to cooperate in the fight against money laundering and financing terrorism. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is urging Tehran to adopt the bills before the deadline set by FATF.