2012年8月16日木曜日

米金融監視機関 イラン取引銀行を制裁

米金融監視機関がイラン取引銀行を制裁した。

NYDFS
・SCBNYの子会社を通じて2001年から10年にかけて、イランの国営銀行等
 と約6万件の金融取引を行い、2500億ドル以上の違法取引数を行い、
 数億ドルの手数料収入を得ていた。
 不正の発覚を避けるため、イランの顧客名を削除するなど、取引記録
 の改ざんも行っていた。
・テロリストや武器・麻薬の取引業者、腐敗国家に対して米国の金融
 システムを危険にさらした。

米財務省
・大量破壊兵器拡散に関わったイランの銀行と取引したとして、北京市
 に本部を置く中国の昆侖銀行、イラクのエラフ・イスラム銀行など
 二つの外国銀行を米金融市場から排除する制裁を科した。
・昆侖銀行はそのうち六行以上と大量の金融取引を行った。

Lloyds TSB Bank Plc of Britain
・2009年1月 3億5000万ドルの罰金を支払う
 2002-2007年 イランとリビア、スーダンに結びつく取引のため

Credit Suisse AG
・2009年12月 5億3600万ドルの罰金を支払う
 1995-2006年 イランとスーダン、米制裁国の顧客との取引を偽装

Barclays Plc
・2010年8月 2億9800万ドルの罰金を支払う
 キューバやイラン、リビア、スーダン、ビルマの銀行が、米ドル業務
 に従事する支援情報を与えた

ABN AMRO(現Royal Bank of Scotland NV)
・5億ドルの罰金を支払う
 1995-2007年 米制裁国と業務を行った

ING Bank NV
・2012年6月 6億1900万ドルの罰金を支払う
 キューバとイラン、米制裁国とと業務を行った

SCB
・Project Gazelle
 イランの銀行が米国金融システムを通して投資するのを支援。
 イラン人顧客名を削除、取引記録の改ざん等を行った。

昆侖銀行
・中国石油天然気集団(China National Petroleum Corporation)の子会社
・イランから大量の原油やガスを購入

昆侖銀行への制裁は、米政府の中国政府への明らかな懲罰。
SCBは、NY州政府による制裁。
安保理のイラン制裁関連決議に反対をした中国をまず、資金面で制裁。
中国が保有する米国債を大量に売却しても、安全省次官秘書の米情報提供
者逮捕でも経済的つながりを優先すると言われ制裁をしなかったが、米国
の我慢も限界にきたのか、中国のエネルギー主要取引銀行を制裁。
米国で、雇用を悪化させている原因とされる中国のエネルギー関連企業の
締め出しかもしれない。

国家安全省次官の秘書 情報漏洩で逮捕か
中国 北朝鮮へ特殊車両納入
HSBCと北陸銀行が犯罪支援か
租税回避地資産 最大2500兆円
FSBが保証したLIBOR詐欺疑惑銀行


---英銀行、イランの金融機関と違法取引10年間---
2012年8月7日10時06分  読売新聞
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/atmoney/news/20120807-OYT1T00385.htm

 【ニューヨーク=小谷野太郎】米ニューヨーク州金融サービス局は6日、英金融大手スタンダード・チャータード銀行(SCB)が、イランの金融機関との間で過去10年間にわたって行った2500億ドル(約19兆5500億円)以上の違法取引を隠していたと発表した。
 同局はSCBに詳細な説明を求め、同州の銀行事業免許を取り消す可能性も示唆した。
 発表によると、SCBはニューヨークの子会社を通じて2001年から10年にかけて、イランの国営銀行などと約6万件の金融取引を行い、数億ドルの手数料収入を得ていた。不正の発覚を避けるため、イランの顧客名を削除するなど、取引記録の改ざんも行っていた。同局は、「テロリストや武器・麻薬の取引業者、腐敗国家に対して米国の金融システムを危険にさらした」とSCBを厳しく非難した。


---米、中国の銀行に制裁 イランと取引---
2012年8月1日 夕刊
http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/world/news/CK2012080102000242.html

 【ワシントン=共同】米財務省は七月三十一日、大量破壊兵器拡散に関わったイランの銀行と取引したとして、北京市に本部を置く中国の昆侖銀行など二つの外国銀行を米金融市場から排除する制裁を科したと発表した。
 オバマ大統領は「イランが抵抗を続けるなら、米国はさらに制裁を強めていく」との声明を発表し、イランに対して核問題解決に向けた具体的な行動を取るよう要求。さらに、イランのエネルギー部門への制裁を強化する大統領令を出した。
 米政府は六月、中国の金融機関をイラン原油制裁法の適用対象から除外すると発表していたが今回は二〇一〇年七月に成立した別の対イラン制裁に関する国内法に基づく措置。
 制裁対象となったのは昆侖銀行のほか、イラクのエラフ・イスラム銀行。米財務省はこれまでに大量破壊兵器拡散やテロ支援に関わったとしてイランの二十以上の銀行を制裁対象としてきたが、昆侖銀行はそのうち六行以上と大量の金融取引を行った。
 コーエン財務次官(テロ・金融犯罪担当)は「どの国のいかなる銀行も、制裁対象のイランの金融機関を助けようとすれば責任を追及される」と述べ、各国の金融機関に取引を行わないよう警告した。


---Factbox: Standard Chartered latest U.S. case vs. UK, EU banks---
Tue Aug 7, 2012 7:23am BST
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/08/07/uk-standardchartered-iran-stripping-hist-idUKBRE87607520120807

(Reuters) - Standard Chartered PLC is the latest multinational bank to face allegations of sanctions busting from U.S. authorities.

The New York State Department of Financial Services on Monday accused Britain's Standard Chartered of helping Iran pump at least $250 billion (160.52 billion pounds) through the U.S. financial system in contravention of U.S. and international sanctions.

Since 2009, the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Manhattan District Attorney's office have targeted several major British and European banks for similar conduct, penalizing them to the tune of more than $2.3 billion.

The activity in question is commonly known as wire "stripping." It involves altering payment messages sent through the global SWIFT interbank communications network to remove references to Iran or other entities under sanction so that international transfers are not frozen or blocked by U.S. banks that process them. The foreign bank often pretends to be the originating party, hiding the identity the true originator.

As a result, a Manhattan-based bank can unwittingly process a payment for the benefit of a prohibited party in Iran or elsewhere in violation of U.S. law. Here are some previous U.S. cases involving "stripping" by foreign banks:

-- Lloyds TSB Bank Plc of Britain agreed in January 2009 to forfeit $350 million for stripping payments tied to Iran, Libya and Sudan between 2002 and 2007.

-- Switzerland's Credit Suisse AG agreed in December 2009. to pay a $536 million fine to settle allegations it stripped payment messages between 1995 and 2006, disguising activity that involved customers from Iran, Sudan and other U.S.-sanctioned countries.

-- Another British institution, Barclays Plc, agreed in August 2010 to forfeit $298 million to settle U.S. prosecutors' charges that the bank stripped wire transfer messages of key information to allow banks in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma to engage in U.S. dollar transactions.

-- Dutch bank ABN AMRO (now part of Royal Bank of Scotland NV), agreed later that year to pay the U.S. Justice Department $500 million to settle claims it stripped transactions linked to sanctioned countries between 1995 and 2007.

-- Netherlands-based ING Bank NV agreed this June to pay a record-setting $619 million to settle U.S. government allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran and other countries.

-- A recent U.S. Senate subcommittee report accused banking giant HSBC of engaging in similar behaviour. HSBC is under investigation by a number of U.S. agencies for possible sanctions and anti-money laundering violations. The bank says it is fully cooperating with the investigations.

Both the U.S. Justice Department and the Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to say whether they are probing Standard Chartered.

The New York Department of Financial Services, which did not play a role in the earlier "stripping" probes, on Monday ordered Standard Chartered to appear before the department and explain why its license to operate in New York should not be revoked.

This article was produced by the Compliance Complete service of Thomson Reuters Accelus. Compliance Complete here provides a single source for regulatory news, analysis, rules and developments, with global coverage of more than 230 regulators and exchanges.

(Reporting by Brett Wolf. Editing by Randall Mikkelsen and Leslie Gevirtz)


---Standard Chartered bank accused of scheming with Iran to hide transactions---
Dominic Rushe in New York and Jill Treanor in London
The Guardian, Tuesday 7 August 2012   
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/aug/06/standard-chartered-iran-transactions?newsfeed=true

British bank named in scathing report by regulators which claims SCB helped Iranian clients skirt US financial sanctions

Standard Chartered bank ran a rogue unit that schemed with Iran's government to hide more than $250bn (L160bn) in illegal transactions for nearly a decade, according to a scathing report by New York regulators that may put intense pressure on the management of the UK-based bank.

According to the report filed by the New York state department of financial services (NYSDFS), when warned by a US colleague about dealings with Iran, a Standard Chartered executive caustically replied: "You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians."

About 60,000 transactions were involved between 2001 and 2007 and the bank faces losing its ability to trade in the US if the allegations are proven.
The regulator has demanded a meeting with the bank on 15 August and just hours before trading began in its shares in Hong Kong this morning the bank insisted it "strongly rejects the position or the portrayal of facts as set out".

Shares in the British bank dropped sharply in the final seconds of trading; the accusations were published just as the London stock market was closing. The shares slumped 6% to L14.70 to become the biggest faller in the FTSE 100.

The attack on Standard Chartered - which is accused by the US of "wilful and egregious violations of law" - could be a severe blow to the reputation of the bank which, until last night, had been regarded as the most solid of any of the London-listed banks after the 2008 taxpayer bailouts, the more recent Libor-rigging scandal at Barclays and the money laundering offences at HSBC.

Its top management team - the chief executive, Peter Sands, and the finance director, Richard Meddings - are held in such regard that only last week they were fending off questions about their potential candidacies for governor of the Bank of England or joining Barclays in the wake of the Libor scandal.

The 27-page report claims that Standard Chartered bankers helped Iranian clients skirt US financial sanctions against their country for nearly a decade.
Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of the NYSDFS, said a Standard Chartered subsidiary in New York had also sought to do business with other US-sanctioned countries, including Libya, Burma and Sudan.

It is the latest blow to the reputation of the City, already criticised in Washington following the HSBC money-laundering debacle and JP Morgan's multibillion-dollar trading losses at its London office.

"It seems to be that every big trading disaster happens in London," New York congresswoman Carolyn Maloney told a Congressional panel investigating the JP Morgan fiasco in June.

The New York regulator has provided emails between members of Standard Chartered staff. In one the head of the US operations warned, among others, the executive director of risk in London, that the dealings with Iran could cause "very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage" to the group.

The email, dated October 2006, warned: "There is equally importantly potential of risk of subjecting management in US and London (e.g. you and I) and elsewhere to personal reputational damages and/or serious criminal liability." It was this memo that provoked the response about "you f---ing Americans".

Financial transactions with Iran have been subject to US sanctions since 1979. Limited, highly scrutinised transactions known as "U-turns" were allowed as long as the money ended up in non-Iranian banks. In 2008 the US Treasury revoked authorisation for U-turn transactions, because it suspected that Iran was using its banks to finance nuclear weapons and missile programmes, and terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas.

According to Lawsky, Standard Chartered set up an operation known as Project Gazelle, aimed at helping Iranian banks put money through the US financial system. The bank is alleged to have removed codes to hide transfers for Iranians.

"For almost 10 years, SCB [Standard Chartered bank] schemed with the government of Iran and hid from regulators roughly 60,000 secret transactions, involving at least $250bn, and reaping SCB hundreds of millions of dollars in fees.

"SCB's actions left the US financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes, and deprived law enforcement investigators of crucial information used to track all manner of criminal activity," the regulator said. "In short, SCB operated as a rogue institution."

In one example from 2001 detailed in the report, Standard Chartered was approached by CBI/Markazi, Iran's central bank, to act as recipient for daily oil sales from the National Iranian Oil Company.

Iranians warned the bank that disclosure of their identities to US banks would cause "unacceptable delays in clearing funds", according to the report.

The bank took legal advice and was told it "should ascertain that the payments are authorised", according to the report.

Instead, it "conspired with Iranian clients to transmit misinformation to the New York branch by removing and otherwise misrepresenting wire transfer data that could identify Iranian parties", the report claims.

Standard Chartered, which is one of the top five largest banks in the UK by market value, was unprepared for the scale of the criticism, despite having made disclosures in previous annual reports - and in its interim report last week - about discussions with the US over breaking sanctions.

The bank stressed that it had complied with the regulations. "Well over 99.9% of the transactions relating to Iran complied," the bank said as Asian markets
opened for Tuesday.

Discussions continue and the bank said it was "surprised to receive" the
regulatory order. "The group takes its responsibilities very seriously and seeks to comply at all times with the relevant laws and regulations," the bank said.


---Regulator Says British Bank Helped Iran Hide Deals---
By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG
Published: August 6, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/business/standard-chartered-bank-accused-of-hiding-transactions-with-iranians.html

Using its New York-based operations, a major British bank schemed with the Iranian government for nearly a decade to launder $250 billion, leaving the United States financial system vulnerable to terrorists and corrupt regimes, New York’s top banking regulator charged on Monday.

 The New York State Department of Financial Services accused Standard Chartered, which the agency called a “rogue institution,” of masking more than 60,000 transactions for Iranian banks and corporations, motivated by the millions of dollars it reaped in fees.

Senior management at the 150-year-old bank used the New York branch “as a front for prohibited dealings with Iran - dealings that indisputably helped sustain a global threat to peace and stability,” according to a regulatory order sent to the bank. The order requires the bank to explain the apparent violations of law in a hearing later this month and justify why its license to operate in New York shouldn’t be revoked.

The bank said Monday night that it “strongly rejects the position and portrayal of facts” by the agency.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that it had an open investigation into money laundering at Standard Chartered. In the order, regulators paint a vivid picture of a cover-up that included the code name “Project Gazelle,” money flowing to Iran’s central bank, United States executives warning of “criminal liability,” and a manual that taught employees how to automate the masking of a rising number of illegal transactions.

The accusations against Standard Chartered come as United States officials work to crack down on the flow of money to foreign countries, companies and individuals connected to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and drug trafficking.

Beyond the dealings with Iran, the banking regulator said it had discovered evidence that Standard Chartered operated “similar schemes” to do business with other countries under United States sanctions, including Myanmar (formerly Burma), Libya and Sudan.

Earlier Monday, a spokesman for Standard Chartered said the bank was reviewing its “historical U.S. sanctions compliance and is discussing that review with U.S. enforcement agencies and regulators.”

But the order accuses senior executives at the bank of suppressing complaints. For example, in 2006, according to the order, the bank’s chief executive for the Americas wrote his bosses in London that the transactions had “the potential to cause very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage to the group.”

According to the order, the response was hostile, denigrated Americans and asked: “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.” The department of financial services, led by superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky, said it was “impossible to know” how much of the money might have been used by Iran to finance its nuclear program or to support terrorist organizations.

Mr. Lawsky said that the department, which examined more than 30,000 internal memos, e-mails and other documents in its nine-month investigation, will hold hearings to determine any financial penalty.

Standard Chartered is the latest in a series of global banks to be accused of facilitating illegal flows of money from outside the United States. In July, a Senate panel issued a report that accused HSBC of being used by Mexican drug cartels to funnel cash back into the United States, by Saudi Arabian banks with terrorist ties that needed access to dollars and by Iranians who wanted to circumvent United States sanctions.

In June, the Justice Department and the New York County district attorney’s office reached a $619 million settlement with ING Bank over accusations that it had illegally moved billions of dollars into the United States for sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities.

The “apparent fraudulent and deceptive conduct” by Standard Chartered occurred from 2001 to 2010, the order said, and was particularly “egregious,” because some of the transactions were being processed even as the bank was under formal oversight by New York banking regulators from 2004 to 2007.

 Standard Chartered, which is based in London, relies for most of its profit on business in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Before 2008, the federal government permitted money to be transferred through the United States from one non-American based entity to another, but only after being thoroughly vetted to detect suspicious activity. In so-called U-turn transactions, a foreign institution routes money to a bank in the United States, which transfers the money immediately to a separate foreign institution.

Suspecting that Iran was using its banks - including the Central Bank of Iran/Markazi, Bank Saderat and Bank Melli - to finance nuclear weapons and missile programs, the policy toward Iran changed and the transactions were banned entirely in 2008.

The order on Monday cited those Iranian state-owned banks as clients of Standard Chartered.

Standard Chartered disputed the accusations and said that “well over 99.9 percent of the transactions relating to Iran complied with the U-turn regulations.” Those that did not comply amounted to less than $14 million, the bank said.

The bank said in its statement late Monday that it had kept federal and state authorities apprised of the review it initiated in 2010. It said that it “did not identify a single payment” connected to a terrorist entity or organization and that it had “ceased all new business with Iranian customers” five years ago.

The apparent illegal activity stretched back to 1995 after President Bill Clinton levied sanctions against Iran. At the time, the general counsel of Standard Chartered e-mailed the bank’s chief compliance officer a plan to ignore regulations imposed by a division of the Treasury Department, according to the order.

In the e-mails included in the order, the executives said a memo containing the plan “MUST NOT be sent to the U.S.,” to prevent prosecution.

That strategy of flouting the United States law was commonplace by 2001, Mr. Lawsky said. An e-mail from a lawyer to bank executives in 2001 said that payment instructions for Iranian clients “should not identify the client or the purpose of the payment.”

One Iranian client, for example, was told to use “NO NAME GIVEN” in paperwork to transfer money, the order said. That way, the money transfer could escape scrutiny and “not appear to N.Y. to have come from an Iranian bank,” a 2003 e-mail from a Standard Chartered official said.

In a strategy called Project Gazelle, the bank devised to forge “new relationships with Iranian companies” and intermediaries “in oil- and gas- related businesses,” a memo from 2005 included in the order said.

The bank’s management created a formal operating manual called “Quality Operating Procedure Iranian Bank Processing,” that showed staff members how to strip off information that might tie them to the sanctioned Iranian institutions.

The bank came under scrutiny from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2003 after regulators discovered deficiencies in monitoring its transactions.

As a result, the bank entered a formal agreement with regulators that it strengthen its oversight and bring in an independent consultant to inspect transactions from July 2002 to October 2004.

Even the independent monitoring, by Deloitte & Touche, was perverted, according to Mr. Lawsky. In 2005, at the behest of the bank, Deloitte agreed to omit critical transactions from its report to regulators. “This is too much and too politically sensitive for both SCB and Deloitte. That is why I drafted the watered-down version,” a Deloitte executive said in a 2005 e-mail in the order.

Deloitte denies it aided the bank. The consultant “performed its role as independent consultant properly and had no knowledge of any alleged misconduct by bank employees,” Jonathan Gandal, a Deloitte spokesman said in a statement. “Allegations otherwise are unsupported by the facts.” In its last examination of the bank, in 2011, the state’s Department of Financial Services said it had found “continuing and significant” failures in complying with bank secrecy and money laundering laws.


---US sanctions against bank 'target' China---
By Zhou Wa
China Daily/Asia News Network
Thursday, Aug 02, 2012
http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20120802-362866.html

Washington has attempted to put more pressure on China over the Iranian nuclear issue by placing sanctions on the country's Bank of Kunlun, with China expressing its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the measures on Wednesday.

The United States is unhappy about China's role in the Iran issue, because they do not think China is putting enough pressure on the country, said Zhang Xiaodong, an expert on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Although the White House didn't say its decision is directed at a third country, the sanction obviously targets China," said Zhang.

The sanction harms the interests of Bank of Kunlun, which belongs to China's largest petrol producer China National Petroleum Corporation, and its main clients include large State-owned enterprises, companies and staff members in the petrol and petrochemical industries, Zhang said.

The US attempted to warn China with its sanction, but it does not want to create direct conflict with China on the Iran issue either, Zhang added.

Shen Peng, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the US is not happy that Chinese financial firms still have connections with Iran, and want to put more pressure on China.

An editorial published on the Chinese website 21cn.com said the "punishment" serves as a warning to all financial institutions that have business connections with Iran, and the Bank of Kunlun is just a scapegoat.

The White House on Tuesday announced penalties to be imposed on the Bank of Kunlun and an Iraqi bank, blaming them for helping Iran evade international sanctions on its oil exports.

According to the White House, the sanction is not targeted at China, and the US will "expose any financial institution, no matter where they are located, that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system".

A Xinhua News Agency editorial said the sanction does not have a strong legal basis.

"The new measure, purportedly designed to curb Iran's nuclear program, in fact lacks legal grounds ... as sanctions on the Chinese bank and international transactions were made pursuant to the US domestic laws," the editorial stated.

Xinhua said the bilateral economic activities between the Bank of Kunlun and six Iranian banks were conducted in line with a string of UN Security Council resolutions and other international standards.

On Wednesday China hit back at Washington's decision, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang releasing a statement saying the sanction seriously violates the international norms and harms China's interests, and China will lodge solemn representation to the US.

China and Iran enjoy normal bilateral relations and have normal, open and apparent business dealings that are not involved with the Iranian nuclear program, and do not violate resolutions of the Security Council or harm the interests of any third party, Qin said.

"China has a consistent and clear position on the issue of non-proliferation, firmly maintains the principals of international non-proliferation system and commits itself with relevant parties including the US to solve the Iranian nuclear issue," the spokesman said.

"But the US ignored China's concerns and repeatedly imposed sanctions on Chinese enterprises and banks - this will yield a negative influence on Sino-US bilateral cooperation," Qin said.

Qin urged the US to correct its erroneous decision, lift the unprovoked sanction against the Bank of Kunlun and stop harming Chinese interests and the Sino-US relations.

"The fourth round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in May yielded positive results and set the tone for expanding strategic cooperation and promoting mutually beneficial relations," Xinhua said in an editorial.

"Washington's sanctions on the Chinese bank would lead to nothing but a hindrance to bilateral cooperation," Xinhua said.

Zhang said China will not give up its interests in Iran, "and is likely to take appropriate countermeasures against the US".

On June 28, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Washington's last-minute decision to exempt China and Singapore from sanctions over imports of Iranian oil because the two countries had reduced oil purchases from Iran significantly.

With the decision, banks from the two countries can avoid financial sanctions from the US for a renewable period of 180 days. During that time, the two countries can be exempted from sanctions on oil trade transactions with Iran.

According to the US government, Washington will block foreign financial institutions from entering the US financial market, if their governments purchase Iranian crude oil from June 28.

The US is testing China's limit in terms of sanctions on Iran, but the US should know that harming China's core interests is not good for Sino-US ties, said Shen.


---New Iran sanctions also hit banks in China, Iraq---
July 31st, 2012 06:37 PM ET
By Jamie Crawford
http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/31/new-iran-sanctions-also-hit-banks-in-china-iraq/

President Barack Obama announced new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's oil Tuesday as well as banks in China and Iraq, warning that Tehran faces "growing consequences" for refusing to answer international questions about its nuclear program.

Obama said China's Bank of Kunlun and the Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq "facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars" for Iranian banks already under sanctions.

"By cutting off these financial institutions from the United States, today's action makes it clear that we will expose any financial institution, no matter where they are located, that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the purpose of additional sanctions was to "affect Iran's calculus" to get Tehran to negotiate seriously over its disputed nuclear program.

The United States will continue to "look for ways to increase the impact" of sanctions on Iran, Rhodes said. "It's only going to get worse for the Iranian government," he said.

The sanctions announced Tuesday come on the heels of a complete European Union embargo on the purchase of Iranian petroleum that took effect at the beginning of the month, and the imposition of U.S. sanctions that cut off the U.S. financial system from any entity that facilitates the purchase of Iranian oil through the Central Bank of Iran.

The United States recently granted exceptions to those sanctions to all major importers of Iranian oil based on evidence that those countries had significantly reduced their purchase of Iranian petroleum. Countries granted exceptions must demonstrate every 180 days their continued reduction of such purchases in order to avoid U.S. sanctions.

The International Energy Association has said that exports of Iranian oil have dropped from a rate of 2.5 million barrels a day in 2011 to below 1.5 million barrels a day in June.

On the same call Tuesday, Robert Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control at the State Department, said the drop represented a decline of 40% to 50%, and approximately $9 billion per quarter in lost revenue for Iran.

The value of Iran's currency, the rial, has also dropped some 38% in value since international sanctions began to take effect the Obama administration said.

In Tuesday's action, Obama issued an executive order against Iranian energy and petrochemical sectors in an effort to prevent the establishment of payment mechanisms that would allow the circumvention of existing sanctions.

In addition to formal transactions of Iranian oil conducted through banks and other financial institutions, the new sanctions seek to punish purchases done through informal means or barter that have sought to go around existing sanctions targeting transactions through Iran's Central Bank.

The executive order also broadens U.S. sanctions on any person or entity engaged in the purchase or acquisition from Iran's petrochemical industry, its second largest export industry behind oil. The petrochemical industry itself generates approximately $9 billion a year in foreign revenue for the Iranian government.

The executive order also authorizes the Treasury Department to take actions that prevent Iran from getting access to U.S. dollars and precious metals, such as gold, in an effort to arrest the decline of its currency.

"These and other provisions send a clear signal to Iran that the Obama administration is determined to increase the pressure until Iranian leaders negotiate seriously" over their nuclear program with the United States and its international partners, Einhorn said on the call.

In announcing the action against the two banks, the Treasury Department said the sanctions were part of a wider effort to expose and isolate Iranian financial institutions connected to Iran's support for terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"Imposing sanctions on Kunlun and Elaf underscores Treasury's commitment to use all the tools at its disposal to intensify financial pressure against Iran while protecting the U.S. financial system from illicit activity," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a written statement.

"Any bank, anywhere, that seeks to provide a financial lifeline to Iran's designated financial institutions should know that it will be held accountable and its activity will be exposed."

On the call with reporters, Cohen said the "collateral benefit" of the sanctions is that Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to make payments in the international financial system, which in turn make it more difficult to procure materials for the nuclear program. The sanctions on Kunlun and Elaf would have a "chilling effect" on the willingness of other international financial institutions from doing business with Iranian banks Cohen said.

Tuesday's actions from the administration come at the same time that negotiators in the House and Senate reached an agreement on even greater sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors. It is possible both chambers could vote on the measures later this week before the August recess.

Rhodes told reporters the administration is reviewing the text of the legislation, but was "quite optimistic" the administration would "continue to work in lock step with Congress" on sanctions with Iran.

Moments after the adminsitration made its announcement, an influential member of Congress made clear there was still work ahead.

"This legislation and today's executive action are important steps in the right direction, but not the final word on Iran sanctions," Rep. Howard Berman, D-California, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a written statement. "Unless Iran agrees to end its weapons program, we must continue to pursue even tougher measures that would result in crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime."

In Tuesday's statement, Obama said Washington "remains committed to a diplomatic solution, but the onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations."

"If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences," he said.

CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.

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