A senior aide to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used trips to Vienna to defy United Nations sanctions to build an international money laundering network that funds black market equipment purchases by the country’s regime, the Daily Telegraph has learned.
At least two visits this year to Vienna by a senior departmental director have been used to carry out transactions worth millions of euros, according to sources.
Western officials confirmed the official is a regular visitor to the Austrian capital and has travelled for extended stays each year since 2007.
While the official and the Centre for Innovation and Technology Cooperation — part of Mr Ahmadinejad’s presidential office — are on the US Treasury’s sanctions list, no measures have been taken against the official in Europe.
Money passing through the Iranian network is believed to be brought into Europe through diplomatic channels in deliveries of half a million euros.
These deliveries are grouped into batches of five to be handed to money lenders in Austria, Germany and Italy. Payments from the network have been documented as transfers to accounts as far as Russia and China to pay for goods that are subsequently sent to Iran.
Internal documents from the centre obtained by People’s Mujahadeen, the Iranian opposition group, suggest that the official has targeted Austria as a hub.
“Austria’s capacities are very high and we have had good capacities with them since the Islamic Revolution. Currently we are in contact with some groups there, regarding technology production who are indeed active in political economy too and have independent lobbies as well. It is also possible to use Austrian banks,” the assessment signed by the official said.
The official is said to have spent more than a week in Austria in April and September this year, holding meetings with a key four-man group of lieutenants, two of who are Iranian businessmen and two Austrians.
Austrian officials said the September trip was the latest of six trips the official made since his elevation to head the directorate. The centre is a key vehicle for supplying technology to Iran’s nuclear programme.
International sanctions have sought to close off and restrict Iran’s access to highly engineered materials that could be used in its nuclear programme.
Fears that the country is stockpiling enriched uranium to be used in a nuclear bomb have triggered a range of measures against trade and financial links with Iran.
European sources said there has been concerns over the Austrian authorities’ failure to intervene in working trips to Europe. The Austrian interior ministry said it had not yet launched an official investigation of the activities.
“There are no ongoing criminal investigations,” it told Profil magazine.
Officials hope that new tighter measure introduced earlier this month by the EU will cut off virtually all financial transactions with Iran, forcing the Austrian authorities to scrutinise closely every transaction by banks and licenced money shops with Iranian links.
“The EU last week introduced tougher financial sanctions against Iran. We have full confidence that all EU member states will implement these measures in full,” a Western official said.
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