Exclusive: Iran set to be hooked up to global banks in weeks

Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:56pm EST
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By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - Iran is set to re-engage with the banking world within weeks as international lenders link up with their Iranian counterparts using global transaction network SWIFT, Iran's Middle East Bank and a senior central bank official told Reuters on Friday.

A nuclear deal between world powers and Iran led to the removal of the curbs on Tehran's banking, insurance and shipping sectors last weekend, as well as restrictions on oil exports.

But for Iran to resume business with the global banking world - for the first time since 2012 - its banks need to be linked to overseas lenders on SWIFT. The system, the Society for the Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, is used to transmit payments and letters of credit.

"We have sent almost 40 SWIFTs to different banks around the world and we have requested that now that the sanctions are lifted, we would like to exchange documents and whether they will consider a correspondent banking relationship," said Parviz Aghili, chief executive and managing director of Tehran-based Middle East Bank. "Some of them have come back and have asked for various questions, for documents they need."

"My feeling is it is going to take a couple of weeks or so before we start to see proper re-engagement. It will be slowly, slowly," he said in an interview.

Aghili said other Iranian banks were in the same situation regarding SWIFT as his company, which is listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange and has total assets of around $1 billion.

A senior official with Iran's central bank also told Reuters the transaction links would soon be restored.

"Really, it is a matter of just a few weeks, less than a month. Because all of our banks, whether private or state-owned banks, have taken the necessary bureaucratic steps, regarding rejoining the SWIFT system," the official said on Friday.   Continued...

An Iranian flag flutters in front of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna June 17, 2014.  REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader