Security experts: Turkish, Chinese banks help Tehran escape sanctions

February 20, 2012, Monday/ 16:22:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

As Iran looks for new ways to evade sanctions put in place by Western nations skeptical of Tehran's nuclear ambitions, security experts say the Iranian central bank has resorted to using proxy institutions in Turkey and China in order to maintain access to the global market and buoy a sanction-stricken economy.

According to a Sunday report by the Daily Telegraph, Chinese and Turkish banks have helped Iran “barter” for goods by purchasing Iranian oil and repaying Tehran by then purchasing and shipping to Iran otherwise unobtainable goods.

"The money Iran earns from oil sales goes into banks in China and is then used for Iranian purchases of other goods and materials,” the Telegraph quoted an unnamed Western security official as saying. “It is a very good way of getting round the sanctions.”

The move comes as a new round of sanctions have left Turkey and China, neither of which imposes sanctions against Iran, as critical lifelines to the Iranian economy. Turkey has long been a major conduit for Iranian goods headed to markets across Europe, while China is one of Iran's largest oil buyers, purchasing around 20 percent of the country's total oil output.

The Telegraph report suggests that Turkish businesses, acting on behalf of Iran, have also attempted to establish shell financial institutions in Europe on orders from Tehran and that investigators have “identified a number of transactions passing through German banks that appear to have come from Turkey, but in fact are being controlled by Tehran.”

The report also suggested that Ukraine and Belarus may be emerging as conduits for the illegal transfer of goods from the EU to Iran.

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