0857 GMT February 21, 2020
The freezing of Iranians' accounts in Georgia has been under media spotlight since a few days ago.
As per a directive, a number of Georgian banks have recently banned providing any banking services to those Iranians in the Caucasian country who do not have residency cards and frozen some of these people's bank accounts.
Prior to this, over the past two years, similar cases had occurred in the UAE, Turkey and China with Iranians' accounts being blocked in these states. Combatting money laundering was the reason given for freezing the accounts jointly in all these cases.
In the case of Georgia, at present, however, the reasons for freezing the Iranians' accounts pertain to the regulations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering on one hand, and a number of problems on obtaining the state's residency on the other hand.
The Georgia-Iran Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also confirmed the freezing of a number of Iranian traders' accounts in Georgia and announced that these people are not permitted to open new accounts.
Commenting on the issue, Fatemeh Moqimi, the head of Georgia-Iran Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "Following enquiries by the Iranian Embassy in Georgia, we found out that the freezing of the bank accounts had been due to their failure to comply with FATF regulations, not the [reinstatement or imposition of] economic sanctions pertaining to the [US withdrawal from] the Iran nuclear deal."
She added, "In the beginning, our hunch was that Georgia has begun enforcing the sanctions against Iran. However, later, we were informed that the Iranians' accounts had been blocked due to their failure to conform to FATF regulations."
The FATF regulations had earlier caused problems for Iranian nationals living in neighboring states, such as Turkey and the UAE, as well as China.
There is a law in Georgia stating that in case immigrants to the country purchase property worth at least $35,000 there, they will be given one-year residency. If they renew this temporary residency for six years, they will be granted permanent residency.
In the past few years, the number of Iranians traveling to Georgia seeking to purchase property there and obtain permanent residency of the country has gone up. The number of Iranian nationals in Georgia is estimated at between 6,000 and 10,000.
A few weeks ago, Iran's Ambassador to Georgia Javad Ghavam Shahidi had warned those purchasing properties in the state to obtain the permanent residency of the country that a large number of Iranian nationals there had failed to renew their residency after a year.
TBC Bank directive
According to a report by Radio Tbilisi, TBC Bank Group Plc, Georgia’s largest retail bank, has recently issued a directive pertaining to Iranians which shows that the freezing of their accounts has been due to residency issues. Prior to the issuance of the bank's first directive on May 17, it was possible for Iranians to deposit money in an account at the Georgian bank even if they did not have a residency card and only had a passport.
However, it was impossible for them to conduct a transaction as had been announced in the first directive.
In its second directive, the bank explained that in case they have an official contract and hand it over to the management of its branches, Iranians can deposit money into the account of the other party to the deal, who has an account at TBC Bank, and purchase their properties.