AFP: The United States froze the assets Tuesday of an Iranian state-owned bank for its alleged help with Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2011 (AFP) – The United States froze the assets Tuesday of an Iranian state-owned bank for its alleged help with Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The Iranian government used Bank of Industry and Mine “to evade US and international sanctions against Iranian financial institutions involved in facilitating transactions in support of Iran’s proliferation activities,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
The Treasury accused BIM of providing financial services to Bank Mellat and Europaisch Iranische Handelsbank (EIH), two Iranian banks it had previously designated in connection with Iran’s nuclear program.
“Iran has a well-established practice of migrating illicit financial activities from one bank to another to facilitate transactions for sanctioned banks,” said David Cohen, the Treasury’s acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The US and other countries suspect Iran is using the program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists it is aimed at civilian energy production.
The sanction was imposed Tuesday under an executive order aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, cutting them off from the US financial and commercial systems.
BIM is the 21st Iranian state-owned bank hit by US sanctions.
The Treasury action came after US lawmakers unveiled legislation in the House of Representatives Monday to tighten economic sanctions on Iran.
The new measure, backed by key Republicans and Democrats, notably aims to toughen punitive measures against entities that invest in Iran’s energy sector or provide the Islamic republic with gasoline.
And it steps up sanctions on top Iranian officials — from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei down to senior military commanders and paramilitary forces — found to have violated human rights.