Iran won’t let South Korea play tricks on frozen funds: CBI chief
Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati says he expects South Korea to be serious on the issue of Iranian funds blocked in the East Asian country over US sanctions or expect repercussions in bilateral ties.
After meeting South Korea’s deputy foreign minister Choi Jong-kun in Tehran on Monday, Hemmati said that Seoul “must immediately” release some $7 billion worth of funds it owes to Iran over crude imports in the past.
“I reminded the Koreans and emphasized that Iran’s blocked funds in (South) Korea belong to the Iranian nation and no one is allowed to play tricks on them,” Hemmati told IRIB News.
Two South Korean banks have effectively barred Iran’s access to its funds under the pretext that any banking transfer would violate US sanctions on Tehran.
Reports have suggested that the two banks have even claimed that Iran should be charged for its failure to retrieve the funds which are held in South Korean currency won.
However, Hemmati told the South Korean delegation visiting Tehran that Iran should be able to receive interest on the blocked funds.
He said Seoul has been dragging its feet on the funds by repeatedly promising that they would be released.
“For nearly one and a half year, the Koreans have sent numerous correspondences and announced that they would solve the problem today, tomorrow or a month later,” he said, adding that South Korea’s Choi had shown serious determination to sort out the case for good.
The South Korean delegation led by Choi arrived in Tehran on Sunday on a preplanned visit meant to discuss the issue of blocked funds as well as other issues of bilateral interest.
The trip came just days after a major maritime incident in southern Iran where Iranian military forces impounded a South Korean tanker because it was polluting the Persian Gulf.
Iran has denied the seizure of the ship has anything to do with the issue of the blocked funds.
Hemmati said he had told the South Korean delegation that Iran would not accept any excuses that releasing the funds would cause problems in Seoul’s relations with Washington.
“There have been other countries where we had funds but we managed to get them back,” he said.