Bipartisan Lawmakers Want Iran’s Illicit Financial Empire Exposed

Intel could help sculpt sanctions as Biden negotiates nuclear deal

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• July 22, 2021 3:30 pm


A pair of bipartisan congressmen want the U.S. intelligence community to pull the curtain back on the Iranian regime’s illicit financial empire, providing a window into the hardline government’s funding networks as the Biden administration moves to unwind harsh economic sanctions on the country.

Reps. French Hill (R., Ark.) and Al Lawson (D., Fla.) seek to force the Biden administration to disclose intelligence information it has on the Iranian regime’s illicit financial channels, which have helped keep the government afloat as its economy flounders under American sanctions. Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei controls a business empire reportedly worth $95 billion. This money has helped to keep the clerical regime in power as its people face food, water, and gas shortages.

The lawmakers filed legislation on Wednesday that would require the Treasury Department to brief Congress on how Iran’s hardline government acquired the funds in the face of sanctions. "By combining publicly available information with U.S. intelligence that can be made public, the legislation can provide a valuable window into the corrupt business practices of Iran’s top kleptocrats and limit their financial holdings which are used to support and sponsor terrorism," the lawmakers said when they unveiled the bill, which is likely to receive broad support among members of both parties who want to hold Iran accountable.

The information could be used by Congress to sculpt sanctions that target Iran’s illicit financial networks, banks involved in processing these funds, and senior Iranian officials complicit in any sanctions-busting schemes. It could also fuel further opposition to the Biden administration’s ongoing negotiations with Iran aimed at inking a revamped nuclear deal. Tehran is demanding full-scale sanctions relief, including those that target Khamenei’s billion-dollar empire. A large amount of that money is frozen in international accounts due to U.S. sanctions that will likely be lifted if a deal is reached.

Iran also launders large sums of money, though it is unclear how much is pushed through the country. Much of this money goes to regional terror groups, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, militants in Syria, and terrorist factions in Iraq and Yemen. The Hill-Lawson bill, dubbed the Holding Iranian Leaders Accountable Act, could make a firm number on this activity public.

The Biden administration would be required to inform Congress about the "estimated total funds" held by the regime, as well as any financial institutions known to still be doing business with Iran’s government, according to a copy of the legislation.

Reports to Congress must include information about Iran’s supreme leader, its president, members of the ruling Guardian Council, the minister of intelligence and security, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and other officials associated with the country’s military and security services.

Hill said he is concerned the Biden administration will waive sanctions that have made it difficult for the Iranian regime to access frozen assets.

"Despite Iranian officials recently plotting to kidnap an American citizen in New York, the Biden administration waived sanctions on the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror by giving them access to billions in previously frozen assets," Hill told the Washington Free Beacon. "It’s highly unlikely that the money is going to reach the ordinary citizens of Iran who have suffered for decades under the brutal dictatorship of the Ayatollahs in Tehran."

Hill's legislation, he said, will help Congress hold the regime accountable at a time when its citizens are demanding economic reforms.