0704 GMT July 18, 2019
“The bill on amending the law to counter money laundering was approved with certain changes and will be sent to Parliament Speaker to be communicated to the government,” Expediency Council member Qolamreza Mesbahi Moghadam told IRNA.
The Expediency Council settles disputes between Parliament, which approved the bill last year, and the Guardian Council, which vets all legislation and had rejected it.
The approval is a major step toward reforms that would bring Iran into line with global norms and could facilitate foreign trade in the face of US sanctions
The government of President Hassan Rouhani says the laws are needed to meet demands set by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental organization that underpins the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.
However, conservatives argue that such legislation will provide Western powers with leverage over Iran’s economy and its finical support for regional resistance groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Iran is alone with North Korea on the FATF’s blacklist — although the Paris-based organization has suspended counter-measures since June 2017 while Iran works on reforms.
The FATF will meet again in February to discuss Iran’s progress.
The government is hoping to salvage banking and trade ties after the United States walked out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran and reimposed unilateral sanctions.
The other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have sought to keep the agreement alive and maintain trade with Iran, but have called on Tehran to meet FATF requirements.
The European signatories of the nuclear deal are still committed to the accord and seek to launch a mechanism, a so-called special purpose vehicle (SPV), aiming to sidestep the US financial system by using an EU intermediary to handle trade with Iran.
The director general of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, an advisory body set up by Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, voiced his support for the FATF-related bills on Friday.
“It is better to finalize the FATF and CFT (counter financing of terrorism regimes) in the earliest time, so the Europeans have no excuse not to implement the (SPV) mechanism,” Abdolreza Faraji Rad said.
Foreign businesses say Iran’s compliance with FATF standards and its removal from the organization’s blacklist are essential if they are to increase investment, especially after reimposition of the US sanctions on Tehran.
The anti-money laundering bill is one of four pieces of legislation put forward by the government to that end. A previous bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August.
Two others — allowing Iran to join UN conventions against terrorist-financing and organized crime — have been passed by Parliament but still need final approval by higher authorities, including the Guardian Council.
The move came after Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani – the chief of judiciary – was appointed last week as the head of the Expediency Council. He is the brother of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
The Expediency Council currently has 38 members, all appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.