How Do I Bring Money From Iran?
Contrary to popular belief in the British Iranian community, transfer of funds to and from Iran has never been prohibited. So why do Iranians face so many issues when they try to move their rightful assets between their home country and the UK?
EU/UK Sanctions on Iran
Prior to the lifting of sanctions in January 2016, transfer of funds between Iran and UK was not illegal but required preapproval from HM Treasury depending on the purpose and value of transfer. However, authorizations were routinely granted and individuals were not unreasonably denied permission.
After lifting of sanctions, HM Treasury discontinued its involvement and announced that Iranians can transfer funds without any need for preapproval. However, no sanctioned person can be involved in the transaction. Still, despite this progress, Iranians are confused and face difficulties in transferring funds.
US Sanctions on Iran
Although EU/UK sanctions were lifted in January 2016, US sanctions remain in place. As a result, major banks, businesses, and individuals with any connection to the US are still at risk of prosecution by the Department of Justice if they have a ‘US element’ such as a ‘US person’ or ‘US dollar.’ These prosecutions can be civil or criminal and are mostly substantial. In the past, several major banks have been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for violating these sanction regimes. To avoid this risk, British banks have made a business decision not to deal with Iran even when the transaction is completely legal in the UK and is not connected in any way with the US.
While we appreciate the bank’s business position, we believe that this practice is discriminatory because it affects an entire population of people. Many innocent Iranians have had their bank accounts closed or their funds blocked, and are unable to use banking facilities to move their funds despite the fact that their actions are wholly legal and permissible in the UK. Therefore, we have become involved in major litigation against high street banks and obtained satisfactory results for our clients. For more information in this regard, please visit our ‘Iran Desk’ page on our website.
(1) Avoid receiving cash and third party payments into your account.
Banks are familiar with the operations of money exchange bureaus in Iran and they tag an account when cash or third party deposits enter the account. In addition, under money laundry regulations, they are obligated to investigate cash deposits and unusual transactions. Therefore, we advise you to hire UK registered money exchange companies that can transfer the funds into your account from their own business bank account, not from various different accounts or in cash. This will lower your risk of facing banking difficulties.
We realize there are very few 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.
(2) The bank may restrict or close your account for receiving money from Iran.
Regardless of the method of payment you use, as an Iranian person, you are unfortunately at risk of losing your banking facilities when your source of funds is Iran. Therefore, we advise you to take the right steps to protect yourself.
a) We advise you to have two bank accounts at different banks and utilize only one for cash deposits and Iran transfers. This way you can continue to have banking facilities if one account is suddenly restricted.
b) If your bank account is restricted or closed, you may choose to shop for another account or seek legal remedies. It is important, however, to make this decision immediately as your actions and correspondence with the bank can affect your claim. For our clients, we have been able to avoid account closures, recover blocked funds, and obtain compensation for financial losses and emotional injury. In our experience, you will not face reprisals for seeking a legal remedy and should not be afraid of filing a complaint.
c) If the bank questions your transfers, we advise you to contact us. If you have used a money exchange company in Iran and received cash and third party payments into your account, you have not violated the law because bringing funds from Iran is not illegal. However, you should have paperwork to prove your source of funds is legitimate and your funds are not related to anyone on the sanctioned list. It is naïve to believe you can resolve your situation by answering the bank’s questions, and providing receipts from the money exchange bureau. Such actions have in the past complicated matters such as incorrect placement on the CIFAS list. We can assist you by mediating between you and the bank and by advising you on only giving the bank what you are legally required to provide.
d) If your banking difficulties are related to your money transfers from Iran, we do not advise you to go to the Ombudsman because the Ombudsman does not deal with race discrimination and you may unknowingly expose yourself to serious issues. We advise you to instead make a decision on whether you would like to seek legal remedies and, if so, start the process as soon as possible.
e) Please, remember that your account may be closed but your funds are usually not blocked. In very rare situations, funds may be blocked and, at times, the bank may mail you a check within a few weeks of closure. However, in most cases you can withdraw your funds from the bank or have it transferred elsewhere.
(3) If you intend to invest in the UK, our firm can assist with your money transfers from Iran.
We have received bank authorisation to receive money from Iran, and we provide a wide range of property and corporate services. Therefore, if you intend to invest in the UK, such as by purchase of a property or by investment in a company, we can assist you by allowing you to send your funds into our firm’s client fund bank account. This process requires an enhanced due diligence review which takes time. Please contact our Iran Desk to find out more about this service.
It is important to note this leaflet only provides general guidance and does not constitute legal advice as every case is different. If you have faced account closure, you should consult a solicitor to best understand and protect your rights.
Blackstone Solicitors have extensive experience of matters that affect the British Iranian community. Simply call 0161 929 0121 for our Manchester office or 020 3693 4507 for our London office or complete our online contact form to see how our tenacious approach can work for you.