A special supervisory committee has been established to monitor and regulate the activities of uncertified credit and financial institutions including Samen Alhojaj, Hamaid Tehranfar vice-governor of CBI for supervision affairs said late Tuesday.
He added that the committee was formed at the behest of the Supreme National Security Council and is headed by the Central Bank of Iran while getting help from several other organizations.
“The CBI has repeatedly warned depositors not to put their money in uncertified institutions, but some have ignored the calls in the hope of higher returns,” he said in an interview posted on the CBI website.
“We ask depositors not to worry about their savings, to keep calm and help us carry out our mission.”
Tehranfar’s comments came after news reports said this week that all four branches of Samen Alhojaj institution in Alborz Province had been shut down. However, the reports were quickly dismissed by the provincial prosecutor, Reza Shakarami.
But the news was enough to bring Samen’s depositors in front of the CBI headquarters demanding the regulator address their concerns.
Tehranfar made it clear that Samen AlHojaj had never registered with the regulator despite persistent official warnings. “However, to safeguard people’s savings a committee comprised of high-ranking officials as well as Samen’s board of directors and its CEO has been formed.”
Tehranfar, however, did not elaborate on how serious Samen’s situation is and whether or not it is able to reimburse its depositors.
But he denied that the CBI had frozen some of the institution’s accounts along with other legally‒operating banks and credit institutions. On Wednesday, Ebrahim Reisei, the country’s prosecutor general also weighed in on the issue saying no decision had been made to liquidate the Samen Alhojaj Credit and Financial Institution.
Samen Alhojaj has operated for 18 years and has 550 branches throughout the country, twice the number of an average commercial private bank.
It was first mentioned by the CBI on its website in 2010 and identified as “in the process of obtaining its license” along with other institutions. But apparently it never followed up on the certification process and continued business without an operating license.
Unauthorized credit and financial institutions, said to number close to 6,000 have created a dilemma for President Hassan Rouhani’s government. Their alleged role in subverting the money market has long been the subject of heated debate among analysts and policymaker in the last two years. The CBI has often vowed but failed to regulate these powerful lenders said to be close to vested interests.
Monetary officials and market observers have said time and gain that the illicit credit institutions, by offering exorbitant deposit rates, are a major obstacle in the implementation of official interest rates.
This month Bank Saderat announced it was taking over the insolvent Mizan institution – another quasi-lender which went bankrupt in early 2015 – in order to reimburse the disgruntled depositors.
The now-defunct Mizan was founded in 2001 in the northeastern city of Mashhad. It rapidly emerged as a big lender attracting huge deposits. But later its failure to return the huge loans it had splurged on risky ventures on the one hand, and mismanagement on the other, led to its ultimate downfall.
Tehranfar had said in the past that an auditing company is looking into the institution’s activities and balance sheets. When the results are final the CBI will decide about the fate of the institution.