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United States Disrupts Large Scale Front Company Network Transferring Hundreds of Millions of Dollars and Euros to the IRGC and Iran’s Ministry of Defense
March 26, 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against 25 individuals and entities, including a network of Iran, UAE, and Turkey-based front companies, that have transferred over a billion dollars and euros to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), in addition to procuring millions of dollars’ worth of vehicles for MODAFL.
Today’s action exposes an extensive sanctions evasion network established by the Iranian regime, which it increasingly relies on as the United States’ maximum pressure campaign severely constricts the regime’s sources of revenue. OFAC also designated Iran’s MODAFL pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for its role in assisting the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), as well as an Iran-based bank for providing banking services to the IRGC-QF.
“We are targeting a vast network of front companies and individuals located in Iran, Turkey, and the UAE to disrupt a scheme the Iranian regime has used to illicitly move more than a billion dollars in funds,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The IRGC, MODAFL, and other malign actors in Iran continue to exploit the international financial system to evade sanctions, while the regime funds terrorism and other destabilizing activities across the region.”
“Central to this network and sanctioned today pursuant to our counterterrorism authority is Iran’s IRGC-controlled Ansar Bank and its currency exchange arm, Ansar Exchange, both of which used layers of intermediary entities to exchange devalued Iranian rial ultimately for dollars and euros to line the pockets of the IRGC and MODAFL.
This vast network is just the latest example of the Iranian regime’s use of deceptive practices to exploit the global financial system and divert resources to sanctioned entities,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker. “This once again exposes to the international community the dangerous risks of operating in an Iranian economy that is deliberately opaque.”
ANSAR BANK’S SANCTIONS EVASION SCHEME
Through IRGC-controlled Ansar Bank, the Iranian regime established a layered network of front companies based in Iran, Turkey, and the UAE to bypass sanctions, gain access to the international financial system, and exchange devalued Iranian rial for dollars and euros. Ansar Bank also used international free zones to establish front companies.
As part of this scheme, Ansar Bank used its Iran-based foreign currency arm, Ansar Exchange and its network, to convert Iranian rial ultimately to hundreds of millions of dollars and euros. To provide this funding to Ansar Bank, MODAFL, and the IRGC, Ansar Exchange relied upon a network of front companies and agents in Turkey and the UAE. In just the last year-and-a-half, four front companies- UAE-based Sakan General Trading, Lebra Moon General Trading, and Naria General Trading, as well as Iran-based Hital Exchange, all designated today — provided the equivalent of approximately $800 million in funds to Ansar Exchange. Additionally, Turkey-based Atlas Doviz acted as a secondary foreign currency provider for Ansar Exchange.
These front companies are witting to Iran’s sanctions evasion. For example, as of 2019, Ansar Exchange Managing Director Alierza Atabaki worked closely with one central procurement agent, Reza Sakan, to avoid the scrutiny of Emirati authorities regarding Ansar Exchange’s financial dealings with UAE-based Sakan General Trading and other identified Ansar Exchange intermediaries.
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View the chart in Farsi describing Ansar Bank’s sanctions evasion scheme.