Iran’s Bank Sepah Designated as a Facilitator of Iran’s Weapons Programs

January 9, 2007

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Mentioned Suspect Entities & Suppliers: 

Related Country: 

  • United Kingdom

The Department of the Treasury today designated Bank Sepah, a state-owned Iranian financial institution for providing support and services to designated Iranian proliferation firms. Bank Sepah International Plc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank Sepah in the United Kingdom, and Ahmad Derakhshandeh, Bank Sepah's Chairman and Director, were also designated today.

"Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network and has actively assisted Iran's pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). "Our action today gives effect to the United Nation's call on all nations to deny financial assistance to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and we urge other countries likewise to fulfill this serious obligation."

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took this action pursuant to Executive Order 13382, an authority aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters and isolating them financially. Designations under E.O. 13382 prohibit all transactions between the designees and any U.S. person and freeze any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Additionally, the United Nation Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1737 on December 23, 2006, requiring governments worldwide to take steps to combat Iran's illicit conduct, including freezing the assets of named entities and individuals associated with Iran's nuclear and missile programs, as well as the assets of entities owned or controlled by them. The resolution also requires states to prevent the provision to Iran of any financial assistance, or the transfer of any financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, or use of prohibited items associated with Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

Bank Sepah provides financial support and services to Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), Shahid Hemmat Industries Group (SHIG), and the Shahid Bakeri Industries Group (SBIG), which were designated by President George W. Bush on June 29, 2005, in the Annex to E.O. 13382.

AIO, a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, oversees all of Iran's missile industries and is the overall manager and coordinator of Iran's missile program.

Bank Sepah is AIO's bank of choice, and since at least 2000, Sepah has provided a variety of critical financial services to Iran's missile industry, arranging financing and processing dozens of multi-million dollar transactions for AIO and its subordinates, including SBIG and SHIG.

Through its role as a financial conduit, Bank Sepah has facilitated Iran's international purchases of sensitive material for its missile program. In 2005, Bank Sepah financed a Chinese firm's sale of missile related items to Iran. Also in that year, AIO directed Sepah to transfer well over half of a million dollars to a North Korean firm associated with Komid, a North Korean entity designated for providing Iran with missile technology.

SHIG is responsible for Iran's ballistic missile program, most notably the Shahab series of medium range ballistic missiles based on the North Korean-designed No Dong missile. The Shahab is believed to be capable of carrying unconventional warheads and has a range of at least 1500 kilometers. SHIG has received help from China and North Korea in the development of this missile.

SBIG, an affiliate of Iran's AIO, is also involved in Iran's missile program. Among the weapons SBIG produces is the Fateh-110 missile, with a range of 200 kilometers, and the Fajr rocket systems, a series of North Korean-designed rockets produced under license by SBIG with ranges of between 40 and 100 kilometers. Both systems are capable of being armed with at least chemical warheads.

Bank Sepah is the fifth largest Iranian state-owned bank with more than 290 domestic branches and a presence in Rome, Paris, Frankfurt, and a wholly-owned subsidiary in London. According to the Banker's Almanac, Bank Sepah's total branch assets were USD 13.9 billion as of early 2005.

Background on E.O. 13382

Today's action builds on President Bush's issuance of E.O. 13382 on June 29, 2005. Recognizing the need for additional tools to combat the proliferation of WMD, the President signed the E.O. authorizing the imposition of strong financial sanctions against not only WMD proliferators, but also entities and individuals providing support or services to them.

In the Annex to E.O. 13382, the President identified eight entities operating in North Korea, Iran, and Syria for their support of WMD proliferation. E.O. 13382 authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and other relevant agencies, to designate additional entities and individuals providing support or services to the entities identified in the Annex to the Order.

In addition to the entities identified in the annex of E.O. 13382, the Treasury Department has designated 23 entities and two individuals as proliferators of WMD, specifically:

* Eight North Korean entities on October 21, 2005;
* Two Iranian entities on January 4, 2006;
* One Swiss individual and one Swiss entity tied to North Korean proliferation activity on March 30, 2006; and
* Four Chinese entities and one U.S. entity tied to Iranian proliferation activity on June 8, 2006.
* Two Iranian entities on July 18, 2006;
* Three Syrian entities on January 4, 2007; and
* One Iranian entity, one UK entity, and one individual tied to Iranian proliferation activity on January 9, 2007.