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Did U.S. Get Russian Bank Booted From SWIFT Banking System?

Russkaya Vesna

Russkaya Vesna

pro-Kremlin news site supporting the Russia-backed separatists in Ukaine

"US intelligence services have achieved the removal of Russian Tempbank from SWIFT [the international financial information exchange]."

...U.S. has sanctioned bank, but lacks formal power to remove it from SWIFT.

Citing unnamed “sources,” the Russian nationalist news site Russkaya Vesnya reported that the Russian Tempbank was removed from the international financial data exchange SWIFT (Society for the Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) supposedly under pressure “from US intelligence services.”

But a U.S Treasury Department official confirmed to that the US does not control who SWIFT removes from its system.

On May 8, 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement that TempBank and Mikhail Gagloev, a senior executive of the bank, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582 were placed on the sanctions list for providing material support and services to the Syrian government, including the Central Bank of Syria and SYTROL, Syria’s state oil marketing firm.

Tempbank’s business with Iran was not mentioned in the U.S. Treasury Department statement or news reports at the time.

Pravda has also reported the story -- without citing RusVesna or any sources -- saying that Tempbank had opened correspondent accounts for the Iranian central bank after economic restrictions were lifted.

SWIFT did not have any press release regarding Tempbank on its site and was unable to confirm from SWIFT that it had in fact expelled Tempbank.

RusVesna also made the claim that a "human rights organization" named "Associations Against Iran's Nuclear Program" had sent a "warning letter" that Tempbank should not cooperate with Iranian and Syrian companies. RusVesna further claimed that this group, "under the wing of the CIA" had earlier "threatened the Tempbank management with personal sanctions" for its "friendship" with Iran and Syria.

It is not clear what organization is referenced, although another pro-Kremlin news site, Russia Insider, identified the organization in question as UANI (United Against Nuclear Iran). Founded by Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey and Middle East expert Ambassador Dennis Ross, UANI describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group.

SWIFT cut off Iranian banks in 2012 which were blacklisted by the European Union over Tehran’s nuclear program.The move, unprecedented for SWIFT, was reported to come after an EU order and U.S. pressure. But Iranian banks were then re-connected to SWIFT in 2016.

On its web site, Tempbank still lists its own SWIFT code and those of its main correspondent accounts. In 2015, amid mounting criticism from international leaders and organizations over its aggression against Ukraine, Russia pledged retaliation against world banks if it were removed from SWIFT. Recently, Moscow indicated it has an alternative under development should such an expulsion occur.

In January 2015, after Russia-backed separatists fired Grad missiles on the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, killing 30 and injuring 90, Kommersant reported that "a source close to the US State Department" said expulsion of Russia from SWIFT was under consideration, but the source conceded that the EU would not be likely to agree to the measure.

Earlier, in 2014, SWIFT said in a statement that it had received "individual calls and pressure" to block institutions and countries from its network, including Israel and Russia but that it would "not make unilateral decisions" as "a result of political pressure."