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Ayatollah to the Revolutionary Guard: Charge it!

August 19, 2012

Money laundering expert Kenneth Rijock has been on fire lately about the alleged banking violations by HSBC, ING, and Standard Chartered.  Now he takes on MasterCard in a post entitled “Why are there 3 million MasterCard holders in Iran?”  Good question.  Rijock says he has reviewed a list of cardholders, and that the lists include senior Iranian leaders, which would indicate a significant loophole in the sanctions regime against Iran in addition to representing a major compliance failure on the part of the credit card company.

From Rijock’s blog on Aug. 2:

WHY ARE THERE 3m MASTERCARD HOLDERS IN IRAN ?

Whilst we are on the subject of banks like HSBC banking Iranians, in violation of international sanctions, we should also examine the role of American credit card issuers. I will cover the financial obscenity of vanilla [plain, unmarked] cards in a later article, but today it is time to expose the fact that major American credit card issuers, like MasterCard, are happy to do business with more than three million Iranian nationals.
Even the newest bank compliance officer knows that Politically Exposed Persons, or PEPs, from sanctioned countries like Iran, are off limits. So why are senior Iranian PEPs issued MasterCards ? I have seen some of the cardholder lists, and anyone with half a brain can determine, from both their occupations or professions, and email address categories, that a large number of the card-members appear to be PEPs, and in a country where many corporations are on the OFAC, EU, or UN sanctions lists, issuing them credit cards is compliance malpractise, plain and simple.

I am sure that MasterCard’s management (and lawyers) will respond that some obscure tax haven subsidiary, and not the USA parent, is involved, and that banks that process the cards are conveniently not from countries that subscribe to sanctions against Iran, are actually involved in the transactions, but know this: MasterCard’s American entities use proprietary software that shows each and every global transaction. They know damn well that their subsidiaries are dancing with the devil.

So, whilst the letter of the law is assuredly being followed, and there is no obvious OFAC violation under federal law, Iranian nationals apparently are free to use their MasterCards overseas. Who is charging the purchases of dual-purpose goods, that are thereafter used in Iran to advance the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Ballistic Missile programmes, I wonder.

It gets worse; If America attacks Iran, to destroy its illegal nuclear weapons programme, will some of the defensive systems employed by Iran to shoot down US warplanes have been obtained by Iranian purchasing officers, using their MasterCards ? This is where the pursuit of profit trumps patriotism; Some will call it Trading with the Enemy.

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