Acting less than a week after the Supreme Court upheld the legality of a U.S.-Iranian agreement that freed the hostages, the Treasury Department yesterday set a Friday Deadline for American banks to transfer more than $2.3 billion in assets to Iran.
Banks holding deposits and others holding Iranian assets must transfer them to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by 11 a.m. July 10 or face possible prosecution -- with penalties of up to $50,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison for officials of banks or other institutions who don't comply.
From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York the assets will be transferred to a central bank abroad -- probably the Bank of England on an interim basis -- for ultimate transfer to Iran by a July 19 deadline contained in the U.S.-Iran agreement.
Approximately $1 billion of the amount, however, will be set aside to be used to settle claims over the ownership of the assets. Those claims will be heard by an international claims tribunal established by the agreement that set the stage for the release of the 52 Americans who had been held in Iran.
In announcing regulations, Treasury noted that it is revoking the department's policy of not seeking civil or criminal penalties for holders of "non-financial" property who do not comply with transfer requirements. That includes such items has goods and services that had been paid for by Iran but not yet delivered, said a spokesman.
The department also said that banks may not impose penalties for early withdrawal of deposits held as time deposits that must not be transferred to Iran.