According to reports in the Austrian news magazine “Profil” and the British “Telegraph,” the Iranian regime uses Austrian banks to launder money in order to circumvent the sanctions and to provide technology for its nuclear program. A representative of the Iranian Center for Innovation and Technology Cooperation (CITC) has been in Vienna as recently as September. CITC is closely related to the office of President Ahmadinejad and has been sanctioned by the US due to its direct involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile program.
Stop the Bomb, a European coalition which works towards the enactment of economic and political sanctions against the Iranian Islamist regime, has criticized the lack of action by the Austrian authorities: “Apparently, the authorities knew about the years of excessive traveling of a representative of the CITC, without taking an interest,” says Simone Dinah Hartmann, STB’s spokesperson. “We demand that this case and the general involvement of Austrian banks be fully investigated and conclusions be drawn. The latest reports prove that only a solid EU travel ban for all representatives of the Iranian regime can prevent Iran from continuing to procure critical components for its nuclear program and laundering money in Europe,” Hartmann added.
STB points out that the laxity of the Austrian authorities as well as the suspected involvement of Austrian banks in the circumvention of the sanctions stand in the tradition of Austria’s previous policy towards Iran. Back in 2006, the president of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Ali-Naqi Khamoushi, named Austria the “gateway to the European Union” for Iran. STB states that the recently passed EU sanctions that were supported by Austria, in particular the prohibition of the import Iranian natural gas, are steps in the right direction. However, these sanctions are hardly enough to stop the regime in Tehran from continuing its nuclear weapons program and the brutal repression of the Iranian people. Austrian companies, in spite of all previous sanctions resolutions, are continuing to do business with Iran in the extent of hundreds of millions, STB reports. While exports are declining slightly, imports have exploded in the first half of 2012 and several hundred of Austrian companies are still active in Iran.
Despite of the massive criticism, which has been voiced by STOP THE BOMB and numerous Members of the European parliament, including its Vice-president, as well as two democratic members of the US senate, the Austrian MEP Josef Weidenholzer (SPÖ) will still partake in a trip to Iran planned by the “Delegation for relations with Iran” of the European Parliament. Simone Dinah Hartmann stated: “We continue to call for the cancellation of this courting of the Iranian regime. Dialogue, as being preached by politicians like Weidenholzer, only buys the Iranian regime more time to work on its nuclear program and undermine the efforts of the Iranian opposition. Weidenholzer should follow the example set by Belgian social democrat Kathleen van Bremt who has withdrawn her participation from the Iran trip publicly.”