I hope everyone has read the articles this week in the Times and WSJ reporting on the half-billion dollar settlement with Credit Suisse for laundering money for Iran. I am truly overwhelmed by this story, and was even more shocked when I read the terms of the settlement. I cannot understand why the U.S. Government has not treated this issue with more severity.
The basic story is that Credit Suisse has settled a case accusing the Bank of purposefully facilitating illegal wire transfers to the U.S. from Iran and other sanctioned countries by disguising the country code in the routing numbers. The case was brought by New York City District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, after a decade-long investigation. The plea levies a hefty fine on the second-largest bank in Switzerland in exchange for admitting fault and promising not to do it again. The only thing more disturbing than the idea of a bank actively circumventing a strict US sanction are the specific clients they had been doing it for: the Times reports that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the Aerospace Industries Organization were two of the Bank's direct clients. Should it even be considered conjecture to assume this money was for materials related to nuclear weapons?
The biggest shocker about this story is the reaction of the U.S. Government. First, without making any assumptions, the Bank clearly violated economic sanctions that have been in effect for the better part of two decades. These sanctions are our only current resource to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. They are recognized, and may soon be matched by the international community, through the United Nations. How can this Bank even begin to justify ignoring this policy?
Secondly, to add insult to injury, it seems likely the Bank facilitated Iran's ability to purchase nuclear related goods and/or services. Does this Suisse have a shred of moral fiber? I understand this is a private, profit-driven institution, but at what cost? Keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran may actually be the only thing the majority of this world agrees on!
This plea deal is nothing short of lunacy. The U.S. is involved in a simmering conflict with Iran, a country with nuclear ambitions that funds and supports terrorism throughout the world. With sanctions, we are waging a war of economics and Suisse is aiding the enemy. At the very least I think the Treasury should be freezing the Bank's U.S. assets and bar the Bank from any U.S. operation. Credit Suisse clearly has total disregard for U.S. law and interests, and should see real ramifications for its actions. If a bank will do all this for money, I think it sends a pretty clear message when your company is now barred from doing business in the largest economy in the world.
President Obama, Hilary Clinton, you want more effective sanctions? I can't think of a better gift, use it.
As a final point for this story. Where are the FBI, the Treasury, and Homeland Security in all this? How on earth did the little old NYC District Attorney Robert Morgenthau (literally old: he is in his 90s) nail this case down? Is anyone watching these things? Is it really as simple as disguising a routing number? No wonder this has been completely ineffective foreign policy. Someone better be stepping it up soon because Morgenthau is set to retire January first. Who will watch out for money laundering from the "evil doers" once he is gone?
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As far as supporting terrorism goes, the big (open) secret is that Saudi Arabia is far worse than Iran. Yet Saudi Arabia receives huge support from the United States and is essentially untouchable, even though its exportation of funds to set up radical mosques throughout the world is perhaps the most destabilizing force in world politics today.ReplyDelete
This is not meant to trivialize the issue with Suisse or Iran, only to point out other dark clouds on the eastern horizon.
See: "The Fall of the House of Saud" http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200305/baer
I enjoyed how this article predicts "economic and social calamities" if crude reaches $150/barrel which they predict would be a result from a terrorist attack. The article, written in 2003, could have never predicted the $145/barrel we wound up paying in Summer 2008... and that wasn't a result of a terrorist attack on the Saudi system.ReplyDelete
Ruters Oil Article