Austria Bank to Restart Tehran Business


Raiffeisenbank International (RBI) of Austria wants to fully re-launch operations in Iran over the coming months. At the moment business is still on ice. The bank had been doing very good business in the country before sanctions were imposed.  The news came in an interview with RBI board member Peter Lennkh featured by the daily WirtschaftsBlatt.

“We are busy preparing everything and want to offer to our customers all that is permitted under sanctions,” Lennkh said.

He said Iranian banks seem very interested and talks are already underway. However, before RBI can restart operations in Iran, all sanctions will have to be abolished and the Iranian side will have to create adequate conditions, such as reconnecting Iran to the international money payment transactions system (Swift) and the necessary customer identification standards (compliance) will have to be introduced, which may take up a few months, Lennkh expects.
As of this week, Iran is able to use the worldwide transaction network which handles cash transfers and letters of credit between financial institutions.
Central bank officials have said banks from European countries including Germany, France, Britain and Italy, have been in talks to open branches after the lifting of sanctions.
Germany’s Commerzbank has also said it is reviewing its policy of not doing business in Iran.
Italy and France signed initial deals with Iran worth more than $40 billion in a variety of fields — from oil and gas to car manufacturing, construction, health and agriculture and clean energy development — last month during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe.
Fear of US Penalties
Other major banks are cautious, however, seeking all the assurances they need to return to Iran. They are deterred by Washington’s heavy fining of some lenders in the past for doing business with Iran.
Thierry Coville, of the French Research Centre for International and Strategic Studies (Iris), said Washington is happy to let uncertainty persist.
“It could be a US policy to say, ‘careful, it’s complicated’, so people don’t understand what’s going on and think they (the sanctions) remain in place,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
In 2014, the US imposed a record $8.9 billion fine on France’s BNP Paribas while German giant Deutsche Bank took a $258 million fine for doing business with Iran.
Coville lamented a “strategic mistake which is today being paid for” to allow the US to place “direct pressure on the European banks” when it comes to a return to Iran.
“Politically, this is lamentable on the part of the Europeans. This is now a financial and geopolitical weapon that the United States won’t shirk from using again in other circumstances.”