Cablegate: Reissue - U/S Levey Engages Gob Officials On


DE RUEHMK #0138/01 0661615
P 061615Z MAR 08

S E C R E T MANAMA 000138



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2018

Classified By: Ambassador Ereli, reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1.(U) The following is a reissuance of Manama 127 that includes Treasury U/S Levey's revision and clearance. ------- SUMMARY -------

2. (S) Central Bank governor Al-Maraj told U/S Levey he was unable to take further action against Future Bank, but understood that the USG would proceed with a domestic designation. The Foreign Minister, however, wished to push one more time for Bahraini action against Future Bank, believing that UNSC action would give the Bahraini leadership cover to act; he urged the USG to wait two more weeks before designating the bank while he made the case again to his colleagues in the government. End Summary. ------------------------ -------------- ------------------- FOREIGN MINISTER PLEDGES COOPERATION ON TERRORIST FINANCING ------------------------ -------------- -------------------

3.(S) In a meeting joined by the Ambassador with Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa February 26, Treasury U/S for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey commended Bahrain on the terrorism trial of al-Qaida supporters that resulted in guilty verdicts for four Bahrainis and one Qatari. He stressed concern about the short sentences and encouraged the Government of Bahrain (GOB) to pursue joint UN designations of two of these al-Qaida facilitators -- Abdulrahman Jaffar Ali and Khalifa Muhammad Turki Al-Subaiy -- at the United Nations 1267 Sanctions Committee. U/S Levey said the USG would assist the GOB in preparing a designation package and that the USG would also be pursuing their domestic designations under EO 13224. Sheikh Khalid said he would be pleased to offer Bahraini cooperation with the USG on the UN designation.

4.(S) U/S Levey also raised the status of the Bahraini proposal to host a regional workshop on the regulation and oversight of charity fundraising. The workshop would be organized with USG and Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA-FATF) participation. (Note. Bahrain hosts the MENA-FATF Executive Secretariat. End Note.) Treasury prepared a concept paper highlighting charity workshop objectives, specifically raising awareness of the problem, reviewing best practices, and outlining specific training deliverables. Sheikh Khalid suggested discussing the issues among relevant government ministries in the spring and opening up the conversation to a larger group, including NGOs, in the fall 2008. He added that Bahrain would take responsibility for the initiative and "put it on the table". Sheikh Khaild will establish a point of contact on this and relay to Embassy. ----------------- FM ON FUTURE BANK -----------------

5.(S) U/S Levey told Shaikh Khalid that the USG would likely designate Future Bank in the coming few weeks (Note: Future Bank, a Bahraini entity, is jointly owned by the Bahraini Ahli United Bank, and the Iranian banks Melli and Saderat. Melli and Saderat have each already been designated under E.O. 13882. End Note.)

6.(C) U/S Levey noted that the USG had thus far designated Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and their subsidiaries everywhere else in the world, but deferred designation of Future Bank in hopes that the GOB would take satisfactory steps against the bank on its own. However, Levey said, measures taken to date by Ahli United and the Central Bank of Bahrain were not sufficient. He stated that the USG would be pursuing an imminent designation of Future Bank.

7.(C) Shaikh Khalid noted reputational concerns and a desire to keep the Bahraini financial system "clean" and asked U/S Levey to give him "two weeks to see what can be done". The FM said that a new UNSC resolution would be an opportunity for him to convince Al-Maraj and others in the Bahraini leadership to take further action against Future Bank. U/S Levey said that any decisive GOB action against Future Bank would be welcomed. ----------------------------------- FURTHER CBB VIGILANCE URGED ON IRAN -----------------------------------

8.(C) In a separate meeting, Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) Governor Rasheed Al-Maraj defended the actions the CBB had taken to date on Future Bank. It had placed two directors on Future Bank's board and had seen no evidence of wrongdoing on Future Bank's part (reftel). Absent evidence of illicit Future Bank activity, it would be difficult to justify further CBB action. Al-Maraj said the GOB understood, however, that a USG designation of the bank now seemed inevitable. U/S Levey pledged to work through Ambassador Ereli to ensure the designation of Future Bank is framed in a way that makes clear that the designation is based solely on ownership and not a failure of oversight on behalf of Bahrain.

9.(C) U/S Levey also raised concerns about the Central Bank of Iran's activities going beyond those typically carried out by a central bank. Iran recognizes its financial institutions have become pariahs, thus the CBI is acting almost as a front for Iranian banks. U/S Levey conveyed that to the extent the CBI maintains accounts in Bahrain, they will require the kinds of scrutiny not normally anticipated when dealing with a central bank. He raised concern about information available to the USG indicating that financial institutions in Bahrain may be holding significant foreign exchange reserves for the CBI, and noted that given the CBI's conduct, this activity requires additional scrutiny. He also noted the December 2007 advisory issued by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) on a recent FATF statement on Iran, and urged Governor Al-Maraj to issue a similar statement.

10.(C) Governor Al-Maraj replied that, while CBB officials had verbally conveyed to all Bahraini financial institutions the need for caution in dealing with Iran, issuing a DFSA-style advisory would be politically difficult. He asked if U/S Levey had any specific concerns.

11.(S) U/S Levey said that the upcoming UNSCR on Iran would likely include language urging increased vigilance on all Iranian banks, specifically Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. Under this scenario, the EU would probably follow with a designation of Bank Melli. U/S Levey noted that the CBI had been seen making very active attempts to evade sanctions in the run up to the UN designation of Bank Sepah, where the CBI funneled large influxes of cash from Sepah to its accounts in various countries in order to prevent these funds from being frozen. The CBB should anticipate and guard against any such attempts to evade sanctions on Melli. U/S Levey passed a nonpaper on the activities of Bank Melli.

12.(S) U/S Levey also raised specific concern with Arab Banking Corporation (ABC). According to information available to the USG, ABC continues to provide services to Iranian banks, including Bank Melli and the Central Bank of Iran is also trying to expand cooperation with ABC.

13.(C) On U.S. and UN sanctions, U/S Levey noted that the intent was not to punish Iran by crippling its banking system. Rather, these sanctions were in response to clear and specific instances of Iranian abuse of the international banking system to further its illicit aims. The USG sought Bahrain's assistance to prevent such attempts from succeeding.

14.(U) Post will report other U/S Levey meetings septel.

15.(U) Undersecretary Levey cleared this message. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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