Standard Chartered helped Iran hide $250 bn: US

The US has accused Britain's Standard Chartered bank of hiding 160 billion pounds (nearly $250 billion) of transfers that helped finance Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

New York regulators said it was a "rogue institution" that broke sanctions imposed on Iran and put profits ahead of global security and the law, according to the Daily Mail Tuesday. The bank is accused of conspiring with Tehran for almost 10 years.

It worked with three Iranian banks suspected of being used by Tehran to finance its weapons programmes, a US official report said.

US authorities suspect the Iranian banks also funded terrorist and militant groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, according to the Mail.

The New York State Department of Financial Services said the London-based bank, which has 87,000 global staff with 2,000 of them in London, had shown "obvious contempt" for US financial regulations.

Standard Chartered was "motivated by greed" and had acted "without any regard for legal, reputational, and national security consequences", the New York watchdog said in the report.

The watchdog, which reviewed over 30,000 pages of documents during its nine-month probe, said the bank covered its tracks by removing information from wire transfer messages used by US authorities to identify sanctioned countries.

The Americans have threatened to revoke the licence of Standard Chartered in the US, which makes most of its money in Asia and sponsors Liverpool Football Club, according to the newspaper.

US sanctions against Tehran date back to 1979 but were heightened following the Iranian invasion of Iraq in 1980. Standard Chartered was one of the few banks to emerge from the financial crisis intact.

On Monday, the banking group said in a statement that it had shut down its Iran operation in 2007 and had no "physical presence" there. 

"As reported previously, the group is conducting a review of its historical US sanctions compliance and is discussing that review with US enforcement agencies and regulators," it said.

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