AFP: Most banks in the United Arab Emirates, an important trading partner for Iran, have stopped money transfers there after the latest round of sanctions on the Islamic republic, bankers said on Sunday.
by Acil Tabbara
DUBAI, September 5, 2010 (AFP) – Most banks in the United Arab Emirates, an important trading partner for Iran, have stopped money transfers there after the latest round of sanctions on the Islamic republic, bankers said on Sunday.
A Dubai-based Iranian businessman said that the latest sanctions have halved trade with Dubai, an important re-export centre for Iranian goods.
“We stopped transfers to Iran in all currencies in July,” an executive from an international bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on June 9 over Iran’s controversial programme of uranium enrichment, which many Western states believe may be a covert bid to make a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies.
The United States and European Union have since unilaterally imposed even tougher punitive measures, which contain provisions to penalise Tehran’s trading partners.
A banker with an Emirati bank said that transfers to Iran in dollars and euros are now forbidden, and have become “very difficult, if not impossible, in dirhams,” the UAE’s currency.
“Transactions by Iranian clients are closely monitored,” the banker said, adding that certain activities by Iranian clients, such as transfers to Asia to purchase goods, are sometimes blocked.
“We used to deal with some banks in Tehran, but now it is almost impossible,” the banker said.
Bank accounts of some Iranian clients have been closed recently, he added.
“The volume of trade between Dubai and Iran has been reduced by 50 percent compared to before the latest round of sanctions, mainly due to bank restrictions,” said Morteza Masoumzadeh, vice president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai.
“There are more restrictions, and things are getting more complicated” because of the latest sanctions, he said.
For example, businessmen can no longer “open a letter of credit to overseas suppliers if the port of discharge is an Iranian port,” he said.
UAE officials said last month that the country was implementing sanctions against Iran. It reportedly began taking steps to implement the latest UN sanctions against the Islamic republic in June.
The UAE central bank ordered the freezing of 41 bank accounts because of the sanctions on Iran, according to the Emirates Business 24/7 website.
Dubai, the UAE’s business and aviation transport hub, has also closed down the offices of 40 firms suspected of breaching the sanctions, the Gulf News daily reported.
Iran is a significant UAE trading partner, with trade volume between it and Dubai alone estimated at about 10 billion dollars (7.7 billion euros) a year, mostly imports to the emirate.
There are about 400,000 Iranians living in the UAE.