Saturday, February 2, 2013


Detained: Former ICB Governor Mazaheri
By far, the most disturbing story to break this week is the seizure of a cheque, in the amount of 300m Bolivars ( USD$70m), from former Iranian Central Bank Governor Tahmasb  Mazaheri, who attempted to smuggle the instrument into Germany, without reporting it, in his carry-one luggage. The cheque was drawn on the Banco de Venezuela (Bank of Venezuela), a government-owned bank in Caracas. it has been impounded by Germany; Mazaheri's custody status remains unclear at this time.

Mazaheri had flown in from Turkey, but his travel had originated in Tehran. It is not known whether German Customs had inside information about the cheque, or whether he was profiled, due to his status as a long-time senior official of the Government of Iran. His current title, since he left the Central Bank of Iran in 2008, is not known, which could indicate that the nature of his current assignment is deemed to be classified by Iran. Is he directing Iran's massive international sanctions evasion programme ?

No further information is available regarding the cheque, or the named payee, but it should be assumed that it is a cashier's cheque, or some sort of official cheque, for few accounts in a bank in Venezuela would hold a sum of that size, nor would most banks wish to clear such a negotiable instrument if it appeared to be a private cheque, even if from a major corporation, from Venezuela.

The Government of Iran has been extensively using Venezuela to evade global WMD and ballistic missile sanctions, but the use of Venezuelan Bolivars to disguise Iranian funds has not been seen before. Whether this is a money laundering operation, designed to move Iranian funds into EU banks, to purchase goods and service, is not known. Iran may be avoiding the use of The Iranian Rial, which continues to depreciate against international currencies, altogether, and it could be exchanging its US Dollars with Venezuela, which is in dire need of hard currency, as the Bolivar continues to drop in the unofficial exchange market.  In any event, Germany has opened an investigation into possible money laundering.

A statutory fine, of $1.4m, for failing to declare the instrument, awaits Governor Mazaheri.


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