Ex-Central Bank Governor Doubts NLB Laundered Iranian Cash

By , 20 Jan 2018, 12:54 PM Business
Marko Kranjec Marko Kranjec Wikimedia

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Claims transactions simply a way to avoid sanctions. 

January 20, 2018

The STA reports, January 20, 2018, that the former central bank governor Marko Kranjec, testifying before a parliamentary inquiry on Friday, doubts that NLB, Slovenia No.1 bank, was used to launder Iranian money.

"I don't think we're talking about suspected money laundering, but rather about Iran's attempt to secure pay channels," he told the commission.

This was very difficult for the country due to international sanctions, said Kranjec, who led Banka Slovenije in the 2007-2013 period.

Iranian bank client Iraj Farrokhzadeh had a lot of money passing through his account and the bank saw a good opportunity to make a profit, he said.

"But the sums were just too high, and this should have set the alarm bells ringing," he told the inquiry into suspected money laundering at NLB in 2009-2010, when around US$1bn went through Farrokhzadeh's account involving over 9,000 transactions.

NLB reported the suspicious transactions to the Office for the Prevention of Money Laundering in autumn 2010, which then notified Banka Slovenija.

The central bank carried out an inspection, establishing internal control mechanisms were not working properly, so we asked NLB to improve them, inspector Jelena Miloševič told the commission yesterday.

While the central bank had no legal basis to ask NLB to stop cooperation with the client, the inspectors told the bank there were big risks, whereupon NLB decided to close the client's account, she explained.

"I think NLB did not do its job in that it did not notify the Office for the Prevention of Money Laundering of the suspicious transactions earlier," she said.

Also testifying yesterday were Draško Veselinovič, NLB CEO from February to September 2009, and Igor Marinšek, NLB chief supervisor at the time of the suspicious transactions. Both said they had learnt about the case from the media.

Alenka Korče, NLB's payment department director from 2003 to mid-2013, meanwhile testified behind closed doors. "I'll answer your questions if you close the door to the public. What I'd like to say is that my memory is still clear."

Also held behind closed doors were the testimonies of ex-director of the Office for the Prevention of Money Laundering Andrej Plausteiner and of Aljoša Pohar, who was in charge of this case at the office.

The parliamentary inquiry into the suspected Iranian money laundering was set up in July 2017 upon the proposal of the senior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC).

The proposal came after reports that the Export Development Bank of Iran laundered around US$1bn through NLB eight years ago.

As part of the interviews the inquiry has conducted with bank officials so far, it has been recently revealed that Farrokhzadeh had a British passport.

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