MercoPress, Feb 22, 2010
Ecuador's inclusion on an international list of nations accused of lagging in the fight against money laundering is a hypocritical punishment for its relations with Iran, Ecuador's president said during his weekly television address.
Under Correa, Ecuador has strengthened diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, which has opened an embassy in Quito and is forging wider relations across Latin America despite the concerns of Washington.
The United States and its European allies have been trying to pressure Iran to suspend its disputed nuclear program, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs. Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes.
“What arrogance! And why? Because we have relations with Iran, that's it; this has nothing to do with the struggle against money laundering”, said Correa during a political rally.
The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, comprising governments and regional organizations, named Ecuador this week among Iran and others as nations failing to comply with international regulations against money laundering and financing terrorism.
“We have been blacklisted along with Iran, Ethiopia, Angola and North Korea. We are the financiers of terrorism in the world!” Correa said indignantly. He added “it's a stick so you don't misbehave, naughty boy. You didn't do what I said, don't get involved with Iran. So because you went ahead, we'll put you on the blacklist, that's all.”
The FATF said in its report, released on Thursday, that Ecuador had not “constructively engaged” with it and had “not committed” to global standards on money crimes.
Correa said Ecuador's two dozen banks had perfectly adequate legislation to protect against laundering and terrorism financing and dismissed the report as “a huge lie.”
Drawing cheers from his audience, Correa asked why nobody had mentioned Brazil, which also has growing ties with Iran and hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad late last year. He said international authorities should put pressure instead on rich nations like the United States and Switzerland over money laundering in their financial systems.
Ecuador's private bank association also said on Friday it thought the Iran factor was behind the nation's inclusion on the FATF list. It noted a 2009 agreement between Ecuador's Central Bank and some Iranian financial institutions.