Here’s what you need to know when it comes to sending money to Iran
There are an estimated 86,000 Iranians in the UK, several of them in high-paid jobs. The vast majority arrived in the UK after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Unfortunately, the world’s politics can stand in the way of your help to friends and family in sanctioned countries, making sending money to Iran a tricky business.
Sanctions and Iran
As an active member of the United Nations, the United Kingdom abided by the sanctions implemented Iran prohibited many types of financial transactions between the two countries. This included private money transfers from the UK to Iran.
In July 2015, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and USA and Iran reached a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme. This concluded over a decade of negotiations between the international community and Iran and culminated in the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPoA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Through the successful implementation of this deal, if Iran could demonstrate its commitment to an exclusively peaceful nuclear programme, it meant that most financial and economic sanctions against Iran would be lifted, following the International Atomic Energy Agency’s verification that Iran had completed all necessary steps to reach Implementation Day on 16 January 2016.
As of 5 November, US nuclear-related sanctions have been re-imposed on Iran following the US withdrawal from the JPoA in May 2018. However, the UK government supports expanding trade relationships with Iran and has encouraged UK businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunities arising from the lifting of sanctions and continues to stand by the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Can I send money to Iran?
Prior to the lifting of sanctions in January 2016, transfer of funds between Iran and UK was not illegal but required approval from HM Treasury depending on the purpose and value of transfer. However, authorisations were routinely granted and individuals were not unreasonably denied permission.
Because of the complications that arose with trading with Iran over the past few years, there are no UK registered money exchange companies that service Iran. Therefore, Iranians are forced to use Iranian money exchange companies which do not have a UK bank account. Therefore, they operate by receiving Rials in Iran into their Iranian bank account and then directing buyers outside of Iran to deposit pounds into the intended recipient’s account. This is how third party and cash deposits are made into bank accounts in the UK which lead to suspicions of money laundering or connections with Iran.
What is 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.
What other options do I have?
One option, though a risky one, could be to send Bitcoins. This electronic currency is accepted for use in Iran and can be converted into Iranian Rial. Bitcoin does not have any central monetary authority and it is based on a peer-to-peer computer network. You can send Bitcoins to other users across the Internet if you have the appropriate software installed, but there are also several exchanges that allow you to trade it for regular currency.
However, the legal implications of sending Bitcoins to Iran are unclear. Once again, the last thing you want to do is get yourself in trouble with the authorities, so obtaining legal advice or an advisory from the Office of Foreign Assets Control is essential before going any further.
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If you’re in doubt as to whether you can send money to a sanctioned country, always assume that transferring funds from the UK to a sanctioned nation is illegal unless a lawyer tells you otherwise.