There is growing trade and investment between Turkish and Iranian businesspeople but some Turkish lenders have begun to request the closure of joint bank accounts with Iranians due to international sanctions against the Islamic republic, according to Turkish business leaders.
Certain Turkish banks have allegedly asked their Turkish clients to close their joint bank accounts with Iranian business partners, according to Turkish businessmen speaking on condition of anonymity. “A Denizbank branch said they would close my bank account, a joint account with an Iranian businessman, unless I did it myself,” one Turkish business leader told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 19, adding that the bank did not provide any further information.
“We have not asked for the closure of joint bank accounts,” Selin Aksu, head of corporate communications at Denizbank, told the Daily News in a written statement Oct. 21. “We do not [intervene in] any money transfers between Turkey and Iran,” she said, adding that the purpose of U.S. sanctions over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program was to block transactions and prevent bilateral trade with Iran.
“The inquiry is related to U.S. sanctions on Iran,” a client of Türkiye Ekonomi Bankası (TEB), another Turkish lender, told the Daily News on Oct. 20, adding that the bank had recently asked for the closure of joint accounts with Iranian businessmen.
TEB officials denied the claims when contacted by the Daily News on Oct. 21.
Iranian bank in Istanbul
“Turkish banks stopped working with us three months ago,” an employee at Iranian Bank Mellat’s Istanbul branch, which specializes in international trade, told the Daily News on Oct. 21.
“The U.S has asked Turkish lenders not to work with us; after this, Turkish lenders started to conduct serious investigations into Turkish-Iranian joint bank accounts,” said the banker.
“The number of new clients has jumped by almost 50 percent in the last few months as the pressure on Turkish lenders increased,” said the banker. “The state-owned Halkbank used to work with us, but now none of them are working with Mellat, except individuals,” he said, adding that the money transfer between Iran and Turkey via Mellat took up to two days.
Bank Mellat, which is blacklisted by the United States, posted the highest profit at the end of first half of the year among foreign banks operating in Turkey. The lender’s profits jumped by 214 percent in the first six months of the year, reaching 32.6 million Turkish Liras; its profits were just 10.3 million liras during the same period last year.
“The most significant existing relationship between Iran and the Turkish financial system is through the Bank Mellat branches in Turkey,” David Cohen, acting undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said during an April visit to Ankara.
The U.S. Treasury was to blacklist some new foreign lenders, including Turkish banks, which have allegedly broken the financial sanctions imposed on Iran, a May 4 Reuters report said. k HDN