Cablegate: Jordan: Rafidain Bank Help On Frozen Assets

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

301855Z Dec 03





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Amman 8205 and previous


1. (SBU) Summary. Jordan's Finance Minister confirmed
that the GOJ would work with Amman-based Rafidain Bank
employees in assembling basic information about Jordanian
commercial claims against Iraq, but said bank secrecy
laws require that he first receive a letter from the
Iraqi government authorizing Rafidain employees to see
potentially private information. Information gathered by
Rafidain would be used to guide the formation of an Iraqi
team that would come to Amman to evaluate the claims,
which the Finance Minister stressed should happen as
quickly as possible. The Rafidain branch will require
active guidance from Baghdad for this process to move
quickly. End Summary.

2. (SBU) In a December 29 meeting with ECON/C and
Rafidain Bank Jordan Manager Mohsen Abed Hassan,
Jordanian Finance Minister Abu Hammour agreed that
Rafidain employees could begin working with the Jordanian
"technical committee" in charge of evaluating claims
against Iraqi bank assets frozen in Jordan. Abu Hammour
said, however, that he had been advised by the Central
Bank governor that Jordan's bank secrecy laws required
that he first receive a letter from his Iraqi counterpart
delegating and authorizing Rafidain to look at the claims
(some of which contain information regarding private
accounts at other banks). Abed Hassan undertook to
obtain such a letter from the Iraqi Finance Ministry. In
the meantime, Abu Hammour arranged for Abed Hassan to
meet informally with technical committee members from the
Ministry of Finance and Central Bank.

3. (SBU) Abu Hammour said that he was under constant
pressure from both inside and outside the Jordanian
government to pay out frozen funds to Jordanian
claimants. He said the subject was frequently raised in
Parliament. Abu Hammour confirmed that he had stopped
making payments after being informed (after the fact) of
Planning Minister Awadallah's commitments in Washington
not to make any more payments until Iraqis were involved
in the evaluation process. He regretted the confusion
caused by Jordanian officials' contradictory statements,
but attributed them to poor coordination. Abu Hammour
said he had since received the Prime Minister's
concurrence that no Jordanian official other than himself
would discuss the subject in the future.

4. (SBU) Comment: Given the pressure he is under, Abu
Hammour said he strongly hoped an Iraqi team could come
to Amman as soon as possible. He understood that the
local Rafidain employees were not empowered to make
decisions on the claims, but were only gathering
information to be used by a mission from Iraq that would
be so empowered. Abed Hassan will need active guidance
from superiors in Iraq for the process to move quickly.
If it does not, we do not exclude the possibility that in
time the GOJ, succumbing to domestic political pressures,
could resume payments.

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