News ID: 281054
Published: 0144 GMT February 24, 2021

Iran’s top banker threatens legal action against South Korea

Iran’s top banker threatens legal action against South Korea

Iran’s Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said the country reserves the right to take legal action against the freeze of its funds in South Korea.

His remarks on Wednesday came after South Korean officials cast doubt on reports that Seoul had agreed to release about $1 billion of Iranian assets held by its banks, Press TV reported.

“The resources belong to the Central Bank of Iran and the Central Bank has the right to take legal action. The Islamic Republic has suffered a lot in this regard,” Hemmati told reporters in Tehran after a cabinet meeting.  

On Tuesday, Iranian Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Hemmati had reached a preliminary agreement with the South Korean ambassador that $1 billion of the blocked resources should be released.

But in Seoul, a South Korean foreign ministry official told reporters: "The actual unfreezing of the assets will be carried out through consultations with related countries, including the United States.”

The comment suggested that Washington - which is at loggerheads with Iran over lifting its inhuman sanctions on the Islamic Republic – would have a de facto veto on any transfers.

Hemmati on Wednesday said his meeting with Ambassador Ryu Jeong-hyun in Tehran came on the request of the Koreans “who came and said they wanted to pay back Iran’s resources and we showed them the way to pay”.    

“In the meeting with the South Korean ambassador, we emphasized how Iran should use its resources. Now the Koreans can negotiate with anyone they want,” he said. 

Hemmati said the Central Bank’s assets being held in South Korea are $7 billion, of which at least $1 billion has to be released in the first stage. 

“Only money will come to our banks’ accounts,” he said when asked if Iran is about to receive goods for its frozen assets.

Iran has also started extensive negotiations with Japan, Iraq and Oman to release its funds stuck in those countries, Hemmati said. “The atmosphere is much better now and this will happen gradually.”

Earlier this month, a South Korean foreign ministry official said Seoul was finalizing talks with Washington about using some of the frozen funds to pay Tehran’s UN dues in arrears.

In the past, South Korea has claimed it was seeking to use the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel to pay back Iran’s debt through Swiss companies’ sales of goods to Iran, but the plans have remained on shelves so far.

On Tuesday, Hemmati was quoted as saying that Iran would continue to demand compensation from South Korean banks.

"The South Korean side needs to make a lot of efforts to erase this negative record,” he said.

Tehran was a key oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea until Washington’s rules blocked the purchases. 

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