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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Report: Deutsche Bank to Cut Business Ties to Iran

Deutsche Bank said closing accounts in Iran was not due to US pressure to clean up its image
The US Treasury has successfully put German financial institutions under severe enough pressure to cease all dealings with Iran, according to a report in a German news magazine released on Saturday. US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey had recently paid a visit in person to German banks and other companies to persuade them to stop doing business with Tehran and was successful in making his case to Deutsche Bank, Germany's Der Spiegel reported. A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman said the bank was closing its doors on business with Iran because keeping accounts there was deemed too time consuming and expensive of a process for the returns it brought. The spokeswoman would not comment on the magazine report, the Associated Press reported Saturday. According to Der Speigel, the Iranian government has channeled some of its foreign currency earnings to German banks. The total held by German financial institutions topped 6.55 billion euros ($8.9 billion dollars). Levey called Iran the "central bank of terrorism," in an interview with public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk last week. Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, had tacitly agreed to run down its dealings with Iran after being placed on a list of institutions dealing with countries the US called state sponsors of terrorism -- Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
German companies not alone
The US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has since removed the list it compiled, which contained names of businesses from the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, France and Japan, from the Internet, saying it had received many complaints from companies, some insisting the list was out of date. HSBC Holdings, Unilever PLC, BP PLC, Siemens, Total, BASF and the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group were just some of the companies highlighted in addition to Deutsche Bank. The SEC list stated that Siemens has business dealings with all five named "sponsors of terrorism" while BASF is linked solely with Iran. Deutsche Bank has connections with both Iran and Sudan. Deutsche Bank spokesperson Ronald Weichert confirmed in an earlier Handelsblatt report that the bank's "commercial relations" with Iran and Sudan were common knowledge. Declining to comment further, the bank did add that its Iranian business made up only 0.1 per cent of turnover and was being reduced further.

US blackmail?
Another large German bank, Commerzbank, stopped financing trade deals with Iran in January, according to the report. An unnamed German banker said German institutions were effectively being "blackmailed" into signing on to US foreign policy decisions. Der Spiegel said Levey had secured less success in pressuring the German government to end financial guarantees for exports through the Hermes scheme. Thousands of jobs in Germany were linked to the 4 billion euros in exports that go to the Gulf region every year, it noted.

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