Tehran is seeking to circumvent looming American sanctions by flying €300 million from Germany to Iran, a move likely to enrage US President Donald Trump, a German official has confirmed.
The development is motivated by Iran's fear it will run out of cash in the coming months following Mr Trump's decision to abandon a historic nuclear arms deal and reimpose sanctions. Germany's highest selling newspaper, the tabloid Bild, initially made the report, and said officials in the Ministry of Finance, foreign office and the Chancellor's team were all aware.
American and Israeli intelligence officials are particularly concerned over fears the money would be used to finance terrorism. However, the German government said its secret service had no evidence this would be the case.
The paper said Iran's needed the cash “to pass it on to Iranian individuals who, when travelling abroad, are dependent on euros in cash due to their lack of access to accepted credit cards."
A spokeswoman at the German finance ministry confirmed Iran had made the request to transfer the money and it was now being checked by financial regulators, as were all large transactions involving countries where there might be possible "money laundering or terror financing."
Associated Press reported spokeswoman Jeanette Schwamberger as saying "should the checks turn up anything suspicious then the result would be the transaction cannot be completed."
She added that she had no overall figure for Iranian holdings in Germany. Tehran is seeking to withdraw the funds from the Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG, or the European-Iranian Commercial Bank in Hamburg, which was said to have “enormous assets belonging to the regime.” The state-owned bank is currently is currently under US sanctions.
On the Iranian side, Ali Tarzali, a high-ranking official of the Iranian central bank, who is subject to US sanctions, is negotiating Bild said.
“What makes the plan so explosive and should anger Israel and the US: The mullah regime repeatedly uses cash in euros or dollars, for example, to finance militia in the war in Syria or the terrorist organization Hezbollah and terror against Israel,” said Bild.
Washington has announced new sanctions on Iran following the election of Mr Trump and ordered all countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November and foreign firms to stop doing business there or face U.S. blacklists.
Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatory countries to the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — offered a package of economic measures to Iran on Friday to bolster its coppers but Tehran said they did not go far enough. Iran is threatening to withdraw from the deal unless a breakthrough is made.
While the US is yet to comment on Bild's report, on Monday Mr Trump said Germany needed to devote more of it's GDP to Nato.