Iran

Iranian authorities have a new target in their bid to calm the country’s economic turmoil: meat-market manipulators, The Wall Street Journal reported. During the two-week celebration of the Persian New Year that ended April 5, Iranians found that putting food on their tables is far more expensive than before. The price of veal and beef increased 67% last year, while mutton had jumped 52% and chicken had become 63% more expensive, the Central Bank of Iran said.

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As its economy buckles, Iran is zealously cracking down on financial fraud, the Wall Street Journal reported. Central to its efforts is a fast-track fraud court approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in August that has sentenced dozens of people, including some 50 men this month, to up to 20 years for paying bribes, embezzlement and damaging the economy. In November, authorities executed two men accused of smuggling foreign currency and manipulating the gold-coin market, the Iranian judiciary’s news service reported.

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Protests over losses at loosely regulated credit institutions, which have hit millions of Iranians, smoldered through 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported. The resentment exploded…and provided the spark that set off the most sustained unrest in Iran in almost a decade. The complaints over financial fraud quickly morphed into a wider protest over an economy that hasn’t performed to expectations, especially following a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 that eased Western sanctions but didn’t do much to improve living standards.
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Inflation has fallen, the economy is finally growing after years of recession and, thanks to the easing of some international sanctions, Iran’s crude oil is once again being sold overseas, the Irish Times reported. But many in the Islamic Republic believe that, if anything, the economic situation has worsened. Despite high hopes that the nuclear deal agreed with western powers in 2015 would deliver an economic bonanza, daily life remains hard and there are not enough jobs for an army of unemployed youth.
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Iran’s central bank is preparing to set up a “bad bank” to cleanse its financial system of a vast pile of toxic loans after studying the models used by other countries, such as Sweden, Japan and South Korea. The plans were part of an array of reform measures designed to bolster the country’s economy presented by a senior central bank official at the Financial Times’ inaugural Iran summit in London on Wednesday.
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Top UK regulators are trying to help three Iranian-owned banks reintegrate into the financial system after years of international sanctions — by deploying a unit designed to aid start-ups, the Financial Times reported. The UK-based Iranian lenders would be among the first beneficiaries of the just-launched unit, which allows participating banks access to services such as a helpline and case officers. The Bank of England officially reactivated the licences of the three banks — Persia International Bank, Melli Bank and Bank Sepah International — two weeks ago.
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An Iranian-owned bank based in Bahrain has appealed a decision by local authorities to place it in administration, in a case showing the vulnerability of Iran's business interests in the Gulf as political tensions rise, Reuters reported. In a letter to the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), the chairman of Future Bank, Abdolnaser Hemmati, said his company had fully complied with regulatory requirements and saw no reason to be treated as a risk to the banking system.
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Iran's national gas company said it is facing collapse, the latest sign of deepening economic distress from international sanctions as Tehran seeks urgent relief in talks with world powers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The chief executive officer of state-owned National Iranian Gas Company, Hamid Reza Araghi, said over the weekend that the company has declared bankruptcy, according to the semiofficial Mehr news agency. The report said the company had a debt of 100 trillion rials, or about $4 billion. The company tried to backtrack on the comments Monday.
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Iranian group Tadbir Energy will submit a bid for the Petit-Couronne oil refinery from insolvent owner Petroplus at a court hearing on Tuesday, French daily Le Figaro said, without citing its sources. Tadbir Energy, a unit of the Imam Khomeini foundation, will offer to buy France's oldest refinery with a guarantee to keep the 550 staff it employs, the paper added. Iranian oil imports are forbidden since July in the European Union, the paper said.
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