Asharq Al-Awsat, London – Iran’s Supreme National Security Council ordered the Central Bank and a number of ministries to withdraw their hard currency deposits from European banks, except Switzerland, and transfer them to banks in Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Iran has bitter memories of its money being frozen in US accounts shortly after the 1979 revolution and the seizure of the US embassy in Tehran. US diplomats inside were held hostage for 444 days and freed in 1981.
The government does not want to give the Europeans the chance to freeze its accounts in case a political or military confrontation were to take place over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Asharq al Awsat has learnt that the amount of hard currency transferred to Asia could total $8 billion, a quarter of the country’s total deposits in hard currency.
“Whenever that proves necessary, we will do whatever needs to be done,” Central Bank governor Ibrahim Sheibani said on Thursday.
Economists estimate Iran will have earned more than $40 billion in oil revenues by the end of the year to March 2006. Of this, $16 billion is earmarked for the budget. The rest goes to the Central Bank of Iran which keeps an unknown amount of holdings in foreign accounts.