A Letter To The Moneymen
President Robert Zoellick
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
Dear President Zoellick:
As you know, the World Bank is currently operating nine projects in Iran totaling $1.355 billion - including one project in Isfahan, the headquarters of Iran's nuclear program.
On October 25, 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Iran's Bank Melli as a terrorist-financing institution and froze its U.S. assets. The New York Times reported on November 3, 2007 that the World Bank was using Bank Melli as the financial institution to transfer Bank funds to the Government of Iran.
On February 2, 2008, the World Bank's Web site posted:
"Disbursement requests received on World Bank projects in Iran were temporarily delayed in the final months of 2007 because of difficulties in executing through the normal channels as a result of certain banks being placed on sanctions lists. Arrangements have been put in place to ensure disbursements under project agreements are utilizing banking channels that are not subject to sanctions lists."
Over the last several weeks, my office repeatedly asked the World Bank staff to disclose which financial institution replaced Bank Melli as the conduit for World Bank disbursements to Iran. To date, my office has not received an answer. Furthermore, the U.S. Executive Director's office at the World Bank informed me that it has "no access" to this information.
On February 25, 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported:
"Now, financial-intelligence officials say the Iranian central bank, also known as Bank Markazi, is handling U.S.-dollar transactions for the blacklisted private banks, and is also helping them by backing their existing dollar-denominated letters of credit."
This week, the U.N. Security Council passed its third sanctions resolution against Iran. The resolution included the following article:
"10) Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions in their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran..."
The United States remains the top investor in the World Bank, contributing $950 million in 2006, $940 million in 2007 and another $942 million scheduled for 2008.
As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, which funds the U.S. contribution to the World Bank, I would like to know how the Bank will comply with Article 10 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1803. It would appear the Bank should disclose to its Executive Directors the identities of the financial intermediaries used by Bank staff to transfer funding from the Bank to the Finance Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In addition, 26 members of the United States Senate recently urged the U.S. Government to designate the Central Bank of Iran, Bank Markazi, as a terror-financing institution. Press reports indicate the U.S. Government may take such action. Should this decision be made, I would also ask how and with whom the Bank staff would transfer funds to Iran in a manner that complied with U.S. laws and regulation.
Mark Steven Kirk
Member of Congress