Iran International has obtained information that unravels some details about the inner workings of a Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force unit tasked with smuggling money from Iraq to Iran.
According to the information, the Islamic Republic’s embassy in Iraq is also involved in the money laundering operations that aim to funnel the regime’s revenues from oil and gas exports to Iran. As per a repeatedly extended sanctions’ waiver by Washington, Tehran is only allowed to import medicine and some essential goods in exchange for its export to its neighboring country.
Iran International television revealed that Mohammad Tajan-Jari, the financial manager of the 400th unit of IRGC’s Quds Force, was in charge of transferring the funds to the unit’s account in a branch of Ansar Bank in the capital Tehran. The bank had been founded by the IRGC in 2010 and was officially merged into the IRGC’s official Bank Sepah. The IRGC had established several banks and credit institutions to help it in its money laundering operations and circumvent US sanctions but after they served their purpose and their affiliations were disclosed, all of them, including Ansar Bank, Mehr Eghtesad Bank, Hekmat Iranian Bank, Ghavamin Bank and Kowsar Credit Institution, were merged into Bank Sepah from 2018 to 2020.
In Iraq, the network is apparently managed by an old Quds Force operative identified as Mahmoud Hasanizadeh, who oversees the job with the help of two Iraqi citizens. Tajan-Jari's executive officer in Iraq is Mostafa Pakbatan, an employee of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic and a member of the Quds Force, who receives the dollars from exchange offices in Iraq. He is not the only employee of the embassy involved in the money laundering network. The current ambassador, Mohammad-Kazem Al-e Sadegh, who was appointed to the post less than a year ago was also a commander of the Quds force and one of the close aides to former chief Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020 in Baghdad.
About a year ago, during the tenure of Iraj Masjedi as the ambassador of the Islamic Republic, Al-Arabiya published a document that showed more than 60 billion Iraqi dinars (about $40 million) from the assets of Iranian energy companies were deposited into the account of the Iranian embassy in the Trade Bank of Iraq, which was supposed to be used for the expenses of the embassy. However, it ended up in the hands of Quds force officers.
This financial network is bypassing the US sanction regimes at the cost of the Iraqi economy. An informed source in Baghdad told Iran International late in December that Washington has received reports that Iraq is still conducting trade with Iran using US dollars despite sanctions.
Iraqi protesters demonstrate against the dinar's slide in value against the US dollar, near the central bank in Baghdad, Iraq January 25, 2023.
According to a report by London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the decline in the value of Iraq’s national currency and the accompanying price increases for foodstuffs and imported goods can be traced back to remarkable change in the policy adopted by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The impact of US banking sanctions on Iran has affected neighboring Iraq, weakening its currency and leading to protests against the government.
The dinar went into a tailspin against the dollar after the New York Federal Reserve imposed tighter controls on international dollar transactions by commercial Iraqi banks in November to halt the illegal siphoning of dollars to Iran.
Under the curbs that took effect this month, Iraqi banks must use an online platform to reveal their transaction details. But most private banks have not registered on the platform and resorted to informal black markets in Baghdad to buy dollars.
This has created dollar shortages as demand has outstripped supply and accelerated the dinar's fall against the greenback. Last week, hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated near central bank headquarters in Baghdad to protest at the recent slide of the Iraqi dinar against the dollar that has triggered a rise in prices of imported consumer goods.
Following demonstrations a delegation of Iraqi officials is set to travel to Washington to resolve issues related to US banking restrictions.