Is there a way to get around sanctions to send money to loved ones in Iran?
Sanctions and Iran
The US sanctioned Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, further expanding economic sanctions when Iran refused to give up its uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons. The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control severely limits US citizens from committing funds or other financial assets in Iran.
Can I send money to someone in a country with sanctions?
However, U.S. depository institutions are allowed to handle funds transfers, through intermediary third-country banks, to or from Iran noncommercial family remittances and travel-related remittances, among others.
But add to this the fact that people in the US are prohibited from dealing with some specific Iranian banks due to their links with financing terrorism and it quickly becomes apparent that sending funds to Iran is very difficult. Most US banks will not handle a transfer to Iran for you, and popular money transfer providers like Western Union and MoneyGram don’t offer their services to Iran.
Even if you can find a money transfer willing to help you send money to Iran you will then need to be very careful about the purpose of the transfer. There are several complex rules and regulations surrounding money transfers to Iran and there have been some highly publicised cases of people unwittingly falling foul of the law. Obtaining advice from the Office of Foreign Assets Control before sending a transfer is recommended.Back to top
Sending money to sanctioned countries — and the potential consequences
There are ways that people have chosen to get around these economic sanctions. But we stress that doing so is illegal and exposes you to severe legal and financial penalties.
If you choose to route your money through a country that doesn’t have sanctions against your intended destination — the UK, for example — you could be charged by the US with money laundering.
Money laundering is any activity that illegally obtains money and attempts to conceal the source, destination or identity of those funds. In the US, money laundering is illegal under federal and state laws. The specific laws about what constitutes money laundering and its prosecution may differ. However, if you’re convicted of money laundering crimes, you face years in prison and significant fines.
One option for sending money to Iran commonly touted on online forums is to first send your money to a friend or relative in the UK, from where it can then be sent on to your beneficiary in Iran (transfers between the UK and Iran are allowed but restricted). But this option is definitely not recommended as it raises the possibility of money laundering, and depending on where you live it may even be illegal.
If you hold a bank account in another country as a resident of that nation, research the rules in place for sending money to a sanctioned nation from that account.
Can I send money to Iran through bitcoin?
Because bitcoin isn’t regulated by any central monetary authority and is based on a peer-to-peer network, you may be able to send money to Iran using bitcoin. This electronic currency is accepted for use in Iran and can be converted into Iranian rial. However, the legal implications of sending bitcoin to Iran are unclear. To avoid any trouble with the authorities, consider speaking to a lawyer or the US Treasury before initiating a bitcoin transfer to Iran.
When in doubt
If you’re in doubt as to whether you can send money to a sanctioned country, always assume that transferring funds from the US to a sanctioned nation is illegal unless a lawyer tells you otherwise. As the US Treasury advises, “You cannot do something indirectly that you would not be able to do directly.”
For more information about sending money to Iran, look into your state’s laws on money laundering, the US Treasury’s updated list of sanctioned nations and the laws that dictate where your bank can make transfers.
Frequently asked questions
What countries are currently sanctioned by the US?
As of this writing, countries sanctioned by the US are Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Burma, the Ivory Coast and Iran.
What are economic sanctions?
Economic sanctions are commercial and financial penalties that can include trade barriers and restrictions on spending money in another country.
What is money laundering?
Money laundering is the act of concealing the source, destination or identity of illegally obtained funds. Money laundering fines can be steep: from a few thousand dollars to more than $500,000 and jail time.
Can I send money to a sanctioned country online?
Some money transfer websites offer the option to send money to sanctioned countries. However, the US considers transferring funds to sanctioned countries online or through a third party illegal.