Elaf Islamic Bank

Shari’ah banking seeks path through Iraqi strife

For all the sectarian violence gripping Iraq, Shari’ah-compliant banks operating in the nation see opportunities for growth. Elaf Islamic Bank, the 14-year-old Baghdad-based lender, is targeting 28 per cent increase in profit this year, even as rival Cihan Bank said its income dropped last year as militants seized vast swathes of the country. However, Cihan Bank also said its outlook improved toward the end of last year as the US began airstrikes on Islamic State. Meanwhile, Iraq’s cabinet approved a draft law yesterday regulating the Shari’ah-compliant banking industry, which will now move to the country’s parliament for passage.

The Curious Case of Elaf Islamic Bank and the Part 561 List

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) recently announced that it removed Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank from its Part 561 List. According to a 2012 New York Times article, Elaf had been named to the list because it had facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars with sanctioned Iranian banks and has objected to the Central Bank of Iraq’s allowing Elaf to continue to attend its U.S. dollar currency auctions. OFAC now says that Elaf has offered its mea culpa, frozen the accounts it holds for the Export Development Bank of Iran (“EDBI”) and begun reducing its overall exposure to the Iranian financial sector. The Elaf development appears to be a victory on paper as a non-U.S. person agreed to terms with the U.S. government over its dealings with Iran apparently occurring exclusively outside the United States. One can only wonder about how the United States will monitor Elaf’s frozen accounts or any of its future dealings with Iranian banks.

The Department of the Treasury Lifts Sanctions Against Iraq-based Financial Institution

The Department of the Treasury has lifted sanctions against the Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq following the bank’s significant and demonstrated change in behavior. On July 31, 2012 the Treasury Department imposed sanctions under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), against Elaf Islamic Bank for knowingly facilitating significant transactions and providing significant financial services for the U.S. and EU-designated Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI). Following the CISADA finding, Elaf immediately began an intensive course of action to stop the conduct that led to the CISADA sanction. Now, U.S. financial institutions are once again permitted to open or maintain correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts in the United States for Elaf Islamic Bank.

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