London, 21 Nov - American officials have exposed a “large-scale” counterfeiting ring, orchestrated by the Iranian Regime, which was sophisticated enough to fool European regulators, on Monday, November 20.
The US Treasury officials described this counterfeiting operation as an attempt by Iran to increase its influence over the Middle East.
They subsequently sanctioned a network of individuals and businesses involved in the counterfeiting and linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its elite Qods Force, including two based in Germany.
The Treasury said that the Regime used the German-based front companies (ForEnt Technik and Printing Trade Center) to trick European regulators into selling them watermarked paper, speciality ink and machinery.
Under international sanctions, the selling of those items to Iran is banned.
However, there is a grave worry that Iran may have already been able to print hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of Yemeni bank notes, which the IRGC uses to fund its destabilising and terrorist activities across the Middle East.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the actions of the Iranian Regime “completely unacceptable” and noted that this highlighted the serious danger of doing business with the Iranian Regime.
He said: “This scheme exposes the deep levels of deception the IRGC-Qods Force is willing to employ against companies in Europe, governments in the Gulf, and the rest of the world to support its destabilizing activities…The IRGC continues to obscure its involvement in Iran's economy and hide behind the façade of legitimate businesses to perpetuate its nefarious objectives.”
While the US has long been certain that the Iranian Regime is supplying weapons to their terrorist proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, this shows how far the IRGC’s malign activities stretch.
Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department intelligence official who now works with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assessed that this revelation could really hurt Iran’s chances of gaining access to the international financial systems.
He said: “Iran itself, together with its proxy, Lebanese Hezbollah, is knee-deep and has been knee-deep in the counterfeit business for quite some time. Exposing this is kind of a two-for-one, both exposing the organization’s terrorist activity and also exposing the nature of the criminal activity that it engages in.”
The sanctions will also serve as a warning to US allies who are seeking to maintain the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and may encourage them to get tough on the Regime.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said: “This sends a pretty strong political statement that it is in Europe’s interest to care. It's European jurisdiction and European technology.”