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Iran Moving Banking Operations to Venezuela
In a little-noticed move, Venezuela and Iran are joining forces not just in petroleum-relate ventures, but in banking ventures. The move toward joint banking is likely to boost Tehran's ability to circumvent U.S.-led sanctions against its financial structure that supports international terrorism and its nuclear program.

The formation of two banks in Venezuela comes on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid Iran has promised the governments in the region that support the Chavez government in Venezuela-Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia, principally.

In addition to helping Iran evade sanctions, the banks, which will be largely operating outside the normal transparency required of financial institutions, will allow Chavez several new avenues to spread money to insurgent groups on the continent, particularly his allies in the FARC in Colombia.

On March 20, the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued a warning against using several Iranian banks, including the Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, SA (BID), a wholly-owned Iranian bank based in Caracas, Venezuela.

Treasury warned that through state-owned banks, the government of Iran, the government of Iran disguises its involvement in proliferation and terrorism activities through an array of deceptive practices specifically to evade detection.

There are two interesting things about this BID, whose initials seem chosen to confuse potential clients with the International Development Bank, which uses the same name and acronym in Spanish.

The first is that the BID, operating since September 2007, was approved almost overnight, with an entirely Iranian board of directors. The second is that it seems not to have any branches elsewhere.

The second joint venture is the newly announced bilateral bank, Banco Binacional Irani-Venezuela, based in Caracas, with an initial capitalization of $1.2 billion, half by each country.

The stated purpose of the bank is to finance activities in the areas of industry, trade, infrastructure, housing, energy, capital markets and technology. The bank will also issue bonds to be placed on the international capital markets and "execute cooperation and technical assistance agreements with third parties."

The latter is of particular concern because it gives the two leaders a way to move funds, with virtually no accounting, to wherever they want.

Additionally, according to El Nacional, a leading Venezuelan newspaper, the directors and chief officers of the bank in Venezuela immunity from prosecution for any legal or administrative charges.

This means that if an Iranian official commits a crime in Venezuela, he cannot be tried for. How is that for an added benefit for a bank director-immunity from prosecution.

This is one of the most dangerous parts of the Caracas-Tehran alliance, and one sure to give the illicit and terrorist activities of both governments new operational staying power.

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