Iran utilized two major UK banks to clandestinely transfer funds globally as part of an extensive sanctions-evasion plot.
Documents reviewed by the Financial Times reveal that British front companies, covertly owned by a sanctioned Iranian petrochemicals firm located near Buckingham Palace, held accounts with the banks, Santander and Lloyd’s.
The state-controlled Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC), a central figure in the scheme, is accused by the US of raising substantial sums for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and collaborating with Russian intelligence to fund Iranian proxy militias. Both PCC and its UK subsidiary, PCC UK, have been subject to US sanctions since November 2018.
Recent disclosures about the sanctions-evasion operation in the heart of London, emerge following the Royal Air Force's participation in US airstrikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Additionally, both the UK and US have imposed sanctions on what they describe as a "transnational assassinations network" overseen by Iranian intelligence, targeting activists and dissidents, including British residents.
Financial documents scrutinized by the Financial Times indicate that PCC, following its sanctioning by the US, utilized UK-based entities to receive funds from Iranian fronts in China, concealing their true ownership through trustee agreements and nominee directors.
European banks found complicit in breaching US sanctions on Iran have faced significant penalties, with Standard Chartered and UniCredit paying over $1 billion each in fines in 2019.