Standard Chartered boss hits back over Iran claims

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The Independent Online

Peter Sands, the chief executive of Standard Chartered, defended the bank yesterday in his first public comments about the controversy surrounding its dealings with Iran.

After rushing back early from his summer holiday, he responded to claims that the British bank had defied US sanctions on Iran by laundering up to $250bn (£161bn) of Iranian money between 2001 and 2007.

Mr Sands cast doubt on the integrity of New York state's Department of Financial Services by refuting many of the facts surrounding the allegations and criticising the manner of their disclosure.

"Frankly, there is a lot of material here that we do not recognise or understand, or that is factually inaccurate," he said in a hastily convened press conference late yesterday afternoon. Mr Sands went on to dismiss an already-infamous allegation in the New York regulator's 27-page report of its case against the bank – that a senior executive at Standard Chartered gave short and colourful shrift to a warning from a US colleague of potential problems in dealing with the Islamic republic.

On hearing the warning, the executive – whom Mr Sands confirmed yesterday to be his No 2, the finance director Richard Meddings – allegedly retorted: "You f****ng Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians?"

However, Mr Sands used the same phrase to deny the allegation twice yesterday. "We do not believe the quote is accurate," he said. Mr Sands declined to say whether he or his team recognised the warning that the New York regulator claimed sparked Mr Meddings' alleged retort.

Mr Sands also criticised the regulator for claiming that Standard Chartered made "several hundreds of millions of dollars" in fees between 2001 and 2007 from so-called U-turn transactions when the actual amount was "in the tens of millions". Before they were outlawed in 2008, U-turns allowed US-based banks to process highly-scrutinised dollar-denominated transactions for Iranian banks or individuals provided that a bank that was neither US or Iranian acted as intermediary on both sides of the deal.

The New York State Department of Financial Services' accusations angered the US Federal Reserve and Treasury which were not informed in advance of the attack.