Banks in Malaysia close Iranians’ accounts due to U.S. sanctions: report

October 30, 2019

TEHRAN – Banks in Malaysia are closing the accounts of Iranian individuals and companies because of U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a number of affected individuals.

According to the news agency, some Iranians and one embassy official said that there were “mass closure” of Iranians’ bank accounts in the Southeast Asian country in recent months.

The banks were being “more Catholic than the Pope”, said university lecturer Behrang Samadi, who is among an estimated 10,000 Iranians living in Malaysia and learnt in August that his bank, CIMB, would close his 14-year-old account.

“In Western countries, there is no problem opening bank accounts,” he added. “They are only sensitive about money transfers, especially in big amounts.”

Samadi said he withdrew his money soon after the bank warned him of the closure within a month’s time, though he was still able to access his account online on Sunday.

It was not clear if the account closures were linked to the tracking of a tanker of Iranian fuel oil offshore Malaysia this year, a development that annoyed the United States.

Many Iranians said they knew of dozens of compatriots who had received notices from CIMB and RHB Bank.

“We regret to inform (you) that we are unable to continue the banking relationship,” CIMB said in identical notices reviewed by Reuters.

The banks did not state a reason, but some individuals said bank officials attributed the move to tighter scrutiny after the sanctions.

CIMB and RHB declined to comment. Malaysia’s central bank directed queries to the Association of Banks in Malaysia, which declined to comment.

Such matters depended on individual banks’ own risk appetite and assessment, the central bank said this month in an email response to one Iranian’s complaint that was viewed by Reuters.

But a July notification on the central bank’s website refers to a statement by the Financial Action Task Force urging “enhanced due diligence” on Iranians by members of the global money laundering watchdog.

Iran’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it was working to resolve the issue.

“We hope that by goodwill and cooperation of the Malaysian officials, the negotiations will yield a positive result,” it told Reuters in an email last week, adding that Iranian companies had also been affected.

For now, Iranians in the Malaysian capital have been left wondering how to pay school fees or hospital bills.

“Without a bank account we need to use the ancient techniques, keeping money under the pillow or in teapots,” said one of them, who sought anonymity. “It’s not fair.”

MH/PA
 

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