U.S. Curbs Bid to Take Iran off FATF Blacklist

The Paris-based the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s financial watchdog, has extended a waiver for punitive measures against Iran for another six months, refusing, however, to remove the country from its blacklist.

The FATF had been considering Tehran’s request for the lifting of so-called countermeasures for some time but the decision was eventually influenced by a number of recent visits by a top U.S. official to France and other European countries, Press TV says.

Many European countries supported the removal of the Islamic Republic from the blacklist in recognition of the steps Iran has taken in recent years to enact legislation barring terrorist financing and money laundering.

However, the United States sent the official to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium ahead of a plenary meeting of the task force Friday to warn that keeping Iran on the FATF blacklist was a top priority, and that Washington would aggressively pursue that policy. The FATF consequently decided to persist in suspending the countermeasures, taking into account the fact that Iran has draft legislation currently before Parliament.

The watchdog, however, did not remove the country from the list in a decision which many believe is political. The FATA’s punitive measures were temporarily suspended in 2016 after Tehran signed the nuclear deal with major world powers and promised to step up its fight on money-laundering. The task force extended the waiver last July and again on Friday.

The Iranian government hopes that the exit from the blacklist would remove one hurdle to foreign investment. Critics of the government, on the other hand, say membership in the Financial Action Task Force has not only failed to attract investment, but it has also exposed various institutions to extraterritorial regulations and penalties.

In its Friday decision, the FATF threatened Iran with new penalties in June if it doesn’t bolster oversight of alleged terrorism financing and money laundering within its borders. Some in Iran believe the U.S. is using the FATF to target key organizations such as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) which has a role in the Iranian economy.