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Iranians in Malaysia Say Banks Close their Accounts amid US Sanctions

Iranians in Malaysia Say Banks Close their Accounts amid US Sanctions

Wednesday, 30 October, 2019 - 06:15
A general view of The Exchange 106 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/ Lim Huey Teng

Banks in Malaysia are closing the accounts of Iranian individuals and companies, nearly a dozen affected people told Reuters, in a sign that US sanctions are having a far-reaching impact on the country’s citizens.


Although Malaysian banks seemed to be more cautious in dealing with Iranians than those elsewhere, some Iranians and one embassy official said, there were "mass closures" in the Southeast Asian country in recent months.


The banks were being "more Catholic than the Pope", said university lecturer Behrang Samadi, who is among an estimated 10,000 Iranians living in Malaysia and learnt in August that his bank, CIMB, would close his 14-year-old account.


"In Western countries, there is no problem opening bank accounts," he added. "They are only sensitive about money transfers, especially in big amounts."


Samadi said he withdrew his money soon after the bank warned him of the closure within a month's time, though he was still able to access his account online on Sunday.


Many Iranians said they knew of dozens of compatriots who had received notices from CIMB and RHB Bank.


"We regret to inform (you) that we are unable to continue the banking relationship," CIMB said in identical notices reviewed by Reuters.


The banks did not state a reason, but some individuals said bank officials attributed the move to tighter scrutiny after the sanctions.


Such matters depended on individual banks' own risk appetite and assessment, the central bank said this month in an email response to one Iranian's complaint that was viewed by Reuters.


But a July notification on the central bank's website refers to a statement by the Financial Action Task Force urging "enhanced due diligence" on Iranians by members of the global money laundering watchdog.


Iran's embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it was working to resolve the issue.


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