Iran deal offers faint hope for Iranian-American banking woes

Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:08am EDT
 
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By Suzanne Barlyn

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Iran nuclear pact could eventually help thousands of Iranian-Americans who have struggled with red tape, shuttered accounts, and even criminal prosecution to conduct bank transactions, although relief seems unlikely anytime soon.

As Washington tightened sanctions on nearly all trade with Iran in recent years, international banking transfers that most Americans take for granted have become increasingly fraught for the roughly 500,000 U.S.-based Iranian-Americans.

Iranian-Americans and their families seeking to send and receive remittances have been hard hit, from students at U.S. universities in need of tuition money from home to Iranian-Americans trying to settle estates of deceased parents in Iran.

"My money is there, but I cannot use it here,” said Reza Hedayati, a New York radiologist who has not seen a cent of the proceeds from the recent sale of a family home back in Iran. Hedayati, 70, who moved to the United States in 1973, has yet to figure out how to get the money out of Iran.

The historic deal signed last week by Iran and six major powers offers a glimmer of hope for people like Hedayati.

It will eventually lift some restrictions on dealing with several major Iranian banks.

The U.S. trade ban still makes direct transfers between U.S. and Iranian banks impossible, but the change could open ways for European or Gulf banks to act as intermediaries for money transfers between family members in the United States and Iran.

A carve-out to the U.S. trade ban with Iran allows for family remittances, but those funds have to be routed through third-country financial entities that deal with Iran.   Continued...

 
Iranian-American Mahmoud Reza Banki is shown at UCLA Anderson School of Management where he earned an MBA in Los Angeles, California in this 2013 handout photo. REUTERS/John Mar/Handout via Reuters