Iran shipping company rejects U.S. indictments

Iran shipping company rejects U.S. indictments

Iran's state shipping line rejected on Tuesday the latest U.S. indictments against it, saying the move was another attempt by Washington to damage the Islamic Republic's economy, state television reported.

U.S. prosecutors took aim at the state-sponsored Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, known as IRISL, on Monday, indicting several companies and individuals for helping the blacklisted firm's suspected weapons proliferation activities by allegedly falsifying bank records, Reuters reported.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office said IRISL used bogus companies to dupe New York-based banks into processing wire payments totalling more than $60 million.

"Iran's shipping line called America's action unfair and against international laws and regulations," state television reported.

"Taking such actions are in fact aimed at harming an influential part of Iran's economic infrastructure and paralysing the country's imports and exports," it added.

IRISL was hit with financial sanctions by the U.S. Treasury in 2008 for its role in aiding Iran's ballistic missile development programme. Over 30 IRISL companies were also the target of EU sanctions last month.

Such measures are part of wider efforts led by Western countries aimed mostly at forcing Tehran to curb its nuclear energy drive, which they suspect is for developing atomic bombs. Tehran says its nuclear activities have only peaceful purposes.

The U.S. indictment, filed in state court, accused the defendants of illegally moving more than $60 million through correspondent accounts at banks in New York City from September 2008 to January 2011. Fifteen other defendants are named in the 317-count indictment.

It could be difficult for prosecutors to win convictions on the indictment, given that all those charged are outside U.S. jurisdiction. But the charges do signal a new U.S. effort to close off loopholes that may allow Iran to evade the sanctions.

They will also warn banks and other international concerns that any Iran-linked activities will come under closer scrutiny.

Tehran is subject to a range of United Nations, U.S. and European Union sanctions which seek to shut it out of the global economy by targeting financial services, shipping and energy sector investments.

IRISL officials have previously rejected accusations by EU and U.S. authorities that the company might be involved in illegal arms shipments.

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