Bahrain's Public Prosecution yesterday referred the Central Bank of Iran and 12 other banks to criminal trial on charges of laundering over $1.3 billion using the Manama-based Future Bank, which was shut down by the authorities in 2016. It is said to be the largest case of its kind in the kingdom.
According to Bahraini Attorney-General Ali Al-Buainain: "Bank Melli Iran and Bank Saderat Iran used Future Bank to transfer $1.3 billion, using an alternative system that was not licensed by Bahraini authorities and was not subject to them, and these funds were kept, settled and laundered in order to evade international sanctions against Iranian entities and personalities."
Al-Buainain revealed that after intensive investigations by the Public Prosecution, officials at the Future Bank and Iranian banks had been linked to the money laundering activities, which took place between 2008 and 2012.
Iran's Central Bank is accused of issuing instructions to Future Bank on the use of an unapproved alternative transfer system to complete banking transactions aimed at concealing the source and movement of funds. It is believed the operation provided a means for Iranian banks to bypass international sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iranian entities.
Gulf News reported that Bahrain's Public Prosecution has previously referred several cases related to Future Bank and other Iranian financial institutions on similar charges. To date, all have resulted in convictions, with sentences of imprisonment and financial penalties totalling almost $1 billion (BD 354 million). Over $367 million, the value of the unlawful transfers, have also been confiscated.
A source from the public prosecution was quoted by Media Line as saying Future Bank "was also exploited by the attempts to transfer money to Iran and to finance several terrorist entities, but this did not happen due to the strict controls imposed by Bahraini authorities on banks."
"Several issues were brought to light, and the funds were in many cases confiscated. All the entities that the bank dealt with secretly were revealed, most notably the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Lebanese Hezbollah organisation, and other entities in Iraq," the source added.