Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi freezes Iran transactions
Tokyo, May 17, 2012
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, which handles most of Japan's payments for oil imports from Iran, said on Thursday it had frozen transactions with Iranian banks after being ordered to do so by the New York District Court earlier this month.
The head of the Japan's banking lobby group said the action could affect crude imports, although the country's biggest refiner said it was not facing a problem paying for Iranian oil.
The move stems from a US court decision in 2007 that ordered Iran to pay more than $2.6 billion to survivors and victims' family members of the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon, a bank spokesman said.
The bank filed an objection to the court ruling on Wednesday, another spokesman said.
Among Japan's three biggest banks only Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ received the order, banking sources in Tokyo said on Thursday.
Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ was targeted because it accounts for almost all Iranian assets handled by Japanese banks, they said. Banking sources said the rest of the trade was handled by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.
'Iranian oil accounts for more than 10 percent of Japan's oil imports. If banks can't make settlements for Iranian oil, this will affect the nation's energy policy,' Yasuhiro Sato, president of Mizuho Financial Group and chairman of the Japanese Bankers Association, said on Thursday at a monthly press briefing.
'The issue needs to be addressed by concerned parties including the government,' Sato said.
The banking unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group did not comment on the amount of assets it has frozen. A spokeswoman at rival Mizuho said the bank had not received a freezing order. - Reuters