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Cablegate: The Dollar Market in Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan

VZCZCXRO9294
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1238 1000729
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100729Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0663
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 001238

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN IZ
SUBJECT: THE DOLLAR MARKET IN SULAIMANIYAH, IRAQI KURDISTAN

This is a Kurdistan Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) cable.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of
Sulaimaniyah Province, Iraqi Kurdistan said the unofficial dollar
market operates there in response to the lack of basic banking
services and products of the local banks. The dollar market
operates without official controls which lends itself to the
possibility of money laundering. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) RRT Off met with the Chairman of the Sulaimaniyah
Provincial Chamber of Commerce at his office in Sulaimaniyah on
March 28. Hassan Baqi Hawrami said the dollar market in
Sulaimaniyiah is comprised of independent businessmen who are not
linked in an institutional sense; however, they coordinate at times
to carry out large financial transactions. These 60 to 70
individuals, he mentioned, work in downtown Sulaimaniyah city in the
small offices of a two-story building. Hawrami stated they are
linked to hundreds of others in neighboring Jordan, United Arab
Emirates, Turkey and Iran. Customers are in contact with the agents
of the dollar market via telephone, he added.

3. (SBU) The Chairman told RRT Off that the dollar market agents
have bank accounts in Iran or Turkey and require a two to three and
one half percent commission per transaction; the commission varies
according to the transaction amount. He emphasized that
transactions are carried out at the risk of the customer.

4. (SBU) Hassan Hawrami told RRT Off the flow of dollars and
products goes smoothly in both directions between Iraqi Kurdistan
and Iran as well as between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey.
Transactions occur through debit and credit of bank accounts of the
agents or cash crossing the border. There are times when customers
have given their dollars to an agent and never see it again. No
insurance exist or legal recourse for a failed transaction.

5. (SBU) The dollar market began 1991 but has become stronger in
the last eight years, Hawrami said. He estimated a ten million
dollar daily turnover in the market. He noted that it appears the
number of transactions recently decreased since the USG and the
Central Bank of Iraq supported a strong dinar. Hawrami added that
locals are taking their dollars out of the country at an estimated
rate of two billion dollars per annum.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: The dollar market in Iraqi Kurdistan formed and
operates partially in response to the inability of provincial banks
to lend funds and attract deposits. It also reflects the absence of
a regulatory environment for private sector development. The
informal dollar market presents a situation ripe for money
laundering because there are no official controls.

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