The US government yesterday targeted a UAE exchange house and a trading company for allegedly helping Iran attempt to circumvent global economic sanctions.
Al Hilal Exchange and Al Fida International General Trading were sanctioned by the US treasury department for "providing financial services to previously designated Iranian banks", the department said in a statement.
The action comes one week after Al Hilal Exchange, based in Dubai, had its licence revoked by the UAE Central Bank for committing anti-money laundering and regulatory violations.
"As Iran's access to the international banking sector comes under increasing pressure, we have seen it turn increasingly to exchange houses and trading companies in its attempts to evade international sanctions and maintain its access to foreign exchange," the US under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, said in a statement.
It is not the first time a UAE financial institution has been caught out doing business with Iran. In December 2011, Dubai's Noor Islamic Bank was forced to end its relationships with Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Melli Iran.
During a three-month span early last year, Al Hilal Exchange provided foreign currency exchange services worth more than US$55 million to Bank Mellat, an Iranian bank, the US treasury department said. The exchange was also being designated for providing currency exchange services to Bank Melli, which has been linked by international authorities to Iran's nuclear programme.
Al Fida collaborated with Al Hilal Exchange to provide Bank Mellat with access to foreign currency, the statement said. In an attempt to obscure the origins of the funds, it said, Bank Mellat transferred currency to Al Hilal Exchange through an Al Fida General Trading account.
Nobody was available to comment yesterday from either Al Hilal Exchange or Al Fida International General Trading.