Malaysia bullied into closing bank accounts linked to Iranians: Dr M
KUALA LUMPUR : Malaysia is being bullied into closing Iranian-linked bank accounts,Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.
"Our ties with Iran are very good. But we face some strong pressure from certain quarters, which you may guess.
"We are forced to do this because if we don't, they will close our banks abroad," he said yesterday.
He described it as "a kind of bullying by powerful people".
Yesterday, Reuters reported that banks in Malaysia were closing the accounts of Iranian individuals and companies saying it was a sign that US sanctions are having a far-reaching impact on Iranians.
Some Iranians and one embassy official said there were "mass closures" in Malaysia in recent months. There are an estimated 10,000 Iranians living in Malaysia.
University lecturer Behrang Samadi learnt in August that his 14-year-old account with CIMB was to be closed.
"In Western countries, there is no problem opening bank accounts. They are only sensitive about money transfers," he said, adding he withdrew his money soon after the bank warned him of the closure .
It was not clear if the account closures were linked to the tracking of a tanker of Iranian fuel oil offshore Malaysia this year, a development that annoyed the US.
Many Iranians said they knew of dozens of compatriots who had received notices from CIMB and RHB Bank.
"We regret to inform (you) that we are unable to continue the banking relationship," CIMB said in identical notices reviewed by Reuters.
CIMB and RHB declined to comment. Malaysia's central bank directed queries to the Association of Banks in Malaysia, which declined to comment.
Iran's embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it was working to resolve the issue.
"We hope that by goodwill and cooperation of the Malaysian officials, the negotiations will yield a positive result," it told said in an e-mail last week, adding Iranian companies had been affected. - THE STAR, REUTERS