The FINANCIAL -- Leading
Georgian banks including those founded by local, Russian or
international capital, are refusing to provide services to Iranian
The FINANCIAL have contacted ten leading banks in Tbilisi in
order to find out the reasons behind the banks’ decisions.
Some Georgian banks say the restrictions on banking services have been ordered by the National Bank of Georgia while some of them say the restrictions are just in accordance with international requirements. NBG refused to comment on the issue.
The number of companies registered in Georgia by Iranian businessmen in the years 2012-2013 was 2,215, according to the National Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat).
After the UN’s economic sanction against Iran, it became increasingly hard for Iranians to do business abroad. However, compared to other countries Iran was encouraged to make big investments in Georgia.
“According to the requirements of OFAC, the UN and other international bodies, Bank of Georgia AML applies separate due diligence procedures to those non-resident customers that come from a high risk jurisdiction as designated by the international bodies mentioned,” said Sophio Balavadze, of Bank of Georgia .
“As for Iranian residents in particular, according to the new sanctions implemented by OFAC on 1 July, 2013, both existing and new Iranian clients have to undergo rescreening procedures which imply the provision of additional documents. If a customer refuses to provide the documents requested, their bank account will have to be closed,” she added.
Because of privacy reasons, Georgian banks don’t disclose the details of how many Iranian customers’ banking accounts have been closed in each bank.
“The financial and economic sanctions are imposed by the United Nations and its member countries like the USA, Australia, Japan, Israel and others. Georgia, as part of the UN, is obliged to ensure the protection of international constraints,” said Anako Korkia, Head of the Marketing Communications Department at Bank Republic.
“The sanctions are applied to certain individuals and legal entities as well as financial and trading relationships, transportation of goods, export-import and other services. The aim of the sanctions is to influence Iran to comply with international demands in terms of creating nuclear weapons by using financial and economic levers. If a bank breaks the sanctions it will be fined, like HSBC who paid USD 1.9 billion for breaking the sanctions,” she added.
“Bank Republic has a special responsibility in this case as it is part of Societe Generale Group. Breaking the international sanctions is risky not only for the Bank but for the whole Group as well. Accordingly, despite our great respect for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian people, we are obliged to take certain measures not to break the international sanctions,” Korkia added.
“Due to global political risks we are under restrictions from our partner foreign banks and this is why we cannot provide banking services for Iranians. But we still serve the companies registered in Georgia and the persons who are citizens of Georgia, regardless of their nationality,” said Maia Dzirkvelishvili, of TBC Bank .
None of the banks in Georgia are welcoming Iranian businessmen. As the operators of different banks in Georgia told The FINANCIAL, Iranian businessmen will not get any banking services in Georgia for a certain period of time now.