Bahrain loses case against Iran banks

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Financial Tribune | 24 November 2021

Bahrain loses case against Iran banks

Bahrain has been ordered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to pay over €200 million in damages plus costs to two Iranian banks for the unlawful moves against their operations in Manama in an act of "political retribution", an official with the Vice Presidency for Legal Affairs in Tehran said.

"The PCA ruled in favor of Iran against the Bahrain government saying that the seizure of Iranian banks’ shares in Future Bank was against international law and bilateral agreements between the two countries," Tavakol Habibzadeh was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Known also as Al-Mustaqbal Bank, the Manama-based bank was set up in 2004 with permission from the Manama government as a joint venture between Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Melli Iran and the tiny Arab state’s Al-Ahli Bank.

Bahrain’s central bank placed Future Bank under its administration in 2015, accusing it of involvement in sanctions-evading operations.

Bank Melli and Bank Saderat started arbitration proceedings against the kingdom on Feb 10, 2017, for confiscation of funds in breach of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments signed by the two governments in October 2002.

Iran’s former central bank governor, Abdolnasser Hemmati, also confirmed the report on Wednesday, hailing it as a legal victory for the country. Hemmati was the CEO of Bank Melli in 2017 when the case was filed.

Back then, Bahrain submitted hundreds of pages to the court in the Hague in a failed bid to paint a false picture of a financial institution operating with "the aim of concealment".

Both lenders denied any improper conduct money transfers, asserting that the Future Bank had promptly responded to the concerns of the host country “without further complaint from Bahrain,” according to a statement issued by the two institutions, Press TV reported.

Earlier this year, Bahrain’s top court upheld a money-laundering verdict against Future Bank, the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks. The ruling called for jail terms of up to 10 years for Future Bank officials and confiscation of funds.

Bahrain’s news agency claimed that Future Bank officials, in cooperation with other officials of Iranian banks and the CBI, undertook “transfer and receipt of more than $1.3 billion via an alternative system” as part of an alleged large-scale money laundering scheme.

In the statement seen on the CBI website, the regulator described the ruling as “baseless” and said it “reserves the right to take legal countermeasures.”

The CBI said the ruling was a “political statement”, arguing that Future Bank had come under the control of the Central Bank of Bahrain following a diplomatic rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia in 2015.

The money laundering charges were made against the bank five years after the Manama government seized the bank and ousted its Iranian managers,” the CBI recalled.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Netherlands is an intergovernmental organization with 116 member states established in 1899 to facilitate arbitration and other forms of dispute resolution between states.