In a shocking revelation, documents obtained by the Financial Times (FT) have exposed how Iran illicitly utilised Lloyds and Santander UK to move money worldwide, forming a vast sanctions-evasion scheme supported by Tehran’s intelligence services.

As per the FT report, the state-controlled Petrochemical Commercial Company (PCC) and its British subsidiary, PCC UK, have been under US sanctions since November 2018, accused of raising funds for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and collaborating with Russian intelligence agencies.

Both banks allegedly provided accounts to British front companies secretly owned by PCC.

Elaborate network and complicated web of front entities

Despite being under US sanctions, PCC’s UK division continued to operate from an office in Grosvenor Gardens, Belgravia, using a complex network of front entities in the UK and other countries.

The Royal Air Force recently joined US airstrikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, further escalating tensions.

The UK and US have recently imposed sanctions on what they call a “transnational assassinations network” overseen by Iranian intelligence.

PCC has been accused of using UK companies to receive funds from Iranian front entities in China, concealing their ownership through trustee agreements and nominee directors.

UK banks linked to Iranian front companies

One of the implicated companies, Pisco UK, registered to a house in Surrey, allegedly received a transfer from a Chinese company named Black Tulip through a Santander account.

Internal documents reveal Pisco UK’s full control by PCC, contradicting its official ownership records.

Another front company, Aria Associates, with an account in Lloyds, is officially owned by Mohamed Ali Rejal, the deputy chief executive of PCC UK.

Emails show Rejal’s involvement in directing funds and concealing PCC’s association with the transactions.

Banks respond and politicians react

Santander stated it was unable to comment on specific client relationships but emphasised its focus on sanctions compliance, indicating that the bank had closed Pisco’s account.

Lloyds Banking Group also refrained from commenting on individual customers but claimed compliance with sanctions laws.

Politicians, including Alicia Kearns and Liam Byrne, expressed concerns about the UK’s failure to curb such activities on its soil, calling for stronger actions against IRGC-connected entities.

David Asher, a former US state department official, criticised UK banks for continuing business with IRGC-connected entities, deeming it inconsistent with the stated policy towards the Iranian regime.

Continued operations and international connections

As PCC continued operations in the UK, it entered contracts for equipment procurement with a Turkish company, ASB, later sanctioned by the US for collaborating with senior IRGC officials.

Audit reports for PCC UK from 2021 indicate significant trading balances with PCC in Iran, allowing it to persist despite western banks being blocked from conducting business with the company.

PCC UK’s Belgravia office is also revealed to be the registered address for NIOC International Affairs (London) Ltd, a division of Iran’s US-sanctioned national oil company, implicated in financing IRGC and Iranian military activities.

Source » msn