U.S. freezes Iranian bank assets over missiles
The Bush administration, tightening the financial vise on Tehran, moved today to block the assets of a major Iranian bank suspected of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.
The action against Bank Sepah, Iran's fifth-largest state-owned financial institution, means any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the bank found in the United States must be frozen. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the financial institution.
"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 undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The Treasury Department also added to its terror-blocking list Bank Sepah International PLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank Sepah, and Ahmad Derakhshandeh, chairman and director of Bank Sepah.
The department says Bank Sepah provides financial support and services to Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization as well as to two Iranian missile firms -- Shahid Hemmat Industries Group and the Shahid Bakeri Industries Group. The United States previously has accused all three of helping spread weapons of mass destruction.
The government said Bank Sepah is the "bank of choice" -- at least since 2000 -- for Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization, a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics,