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Pallone Acts to Strengthen Enforcement of Iran Sanctions

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Seeking stricter enforcement of sanctions on Iran, U. S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. on Thursday wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and President-elect Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, urging compliance and enforcement of international and domestic laws intended to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Pallone also wrote to two foreign-based companies doing business with Iran warning them of the consequences of violating U. S. sanctions.

Pallone believes that economic sanctions -- both direct and indirect -- political sanctions and a ban on all materials and technologies that can be used for weapons development should be uniformly and strictly enforced.

"Iran poses a very real threat to Israel, to the region and to U. S. national security," said Pallone. "The sanctions are needed to do more than send a message. We need to cut off all sources of money and material that can be used in support of weapons of mass destruction."

In his letter to Chairman Bernanke, Pallone said the Federal Reserve should do more to prevent financial institutions from allowing any and all illicit financial activity with Iran. Pallone cited the case of HSBC Holdings, which was found to have inadequate controls over its subsidiaries to vet its customers.

"All financial institutions that conduct significant international transactions should therefore undergo periodic reviews by the federal reserve to ensure thorough compliance review," Pallone wrote to Bernanke. "A robust outreach campaign by the Federal Reserve to instruct banks on best practices for compliance is also imperative."

Referring to recent transactions by the New York branch of the State Bank of India with Iranian entities in violation of regulations, Pallone criticized the Treasury Department for failing to institute the oversight mandated by Congress. The transactions could have been prevented if the Treasury Department had the regulations in place for banks that manage foreign accounts required by the Iran Sanctions Act, Pallone stated in his correspondence to Geithner.

"These regulations are crucial to ensure domestic financial institutions are taking the appropriate measures to safeguard our financial system from illicit Iranian activity," Pallone wrote.

Pallone also communicated internationally, writing to the newly-elected president of Brazil expressing disappointment in Brazil's vote against the latest U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions resolution, to Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, of OMV Aktiengesellschaft warning the CEO of the Austrian company that he risks a ban on business with the U.S. if the firm continues to sell aviation fuel to Iran in violation of U. S. law and to Masayuki Oku, chairman of the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, which maintains an office in Iran that provides financing for Iranian business activities, also in violation of sanctions.

"I hope to work closely with you on combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Pallone wrote to President-elect Rousseff. "Until Iran meets its international obligations and suspends its nuclear program, the international community must continue to press for Iranian compliance."

The letter to Mr. Ruttenstorfer, the head of OMV, included stern warnings on the consequences of breaking sanctions and urged him to cease all sales of aviation fuel to Iran.

"Such sanctions include a freeze on all U. S. assets, the loss of access to U. S. capital markets, a ban on receiving U. S. technology and a ban on receiving U. S. government contracts," Pallone pointed out to Ruttenstorfer.

Pallone said vigilant enforcement of sanctions on all fronts is important to neutralize the dangers posed by Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

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