EU blocks payment gateway for Iran

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Brussels-based co-operative, has formally denied network access to as many as 30 Iranian banks, including its central bank, potentially crippling money flows to the already faltering economy.

The move comes after the European Council confirmed it was banning all forms of financial transactions with blacklisted Iranian firms.

''The new European Council decision, as confirmed by the Belgian Treasury, prohibits companies such as SWIFT to continue to provide specialised financial messaging services to EU-sanctioned Iranian banks. SWIFT is incorporated under Belgian law and has to comply with this decision as confirmed by its home country government,'' the cooperative said in a website announcement.

"The EU decision forces SWIFT to take action," the co-operative's chief executive Lazaro Campos said. "Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT. It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran," he said.

The EU-sanctioned Iranian financial institutions and the SWIFT customer community have been notified of the disconnection, which will become effective on Saturday 17 March at 16.00 GMT, it added.

SWIFT is a member-owned cooperative that provides the communications platform, products and services to connect more than 10,000 financial institutions and corporations in 210 countries.