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Iranian regime's elite group keeps secret funds in Asia

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Petrosina Arya, a Tehran-based company under the IRGCSource: Kyodo News International

An Iranian elite group is suspected of keeping secret funds in various parts of the world including South Korea and Malaysia, dodging internationally coordinated economic sanctions, people familiar with the matter said Sunday.

The U.S. Treasury Department is believed to be probing details of what it sees as a possible case of money laundering by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, with a view to sanctioning another of the group's affiliated companies, they said.

Petrosina Arya, a Tehran-based company under the IRGC, allegedly has savings worth more than $1 billion in an account at a major South Korean bank, a diplomatic source told Kyodo News.

A heavily armed unit under the Iranian leadership, the IRGC set up the firm as a front company after the U.N. Security Council subjected two firms under its wing to sanctions in a 2010 resolution related to Iran's nuclear programs, the source said.

The front company of energy business arm Sepanir of Iran's largest construction company Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, which the IRGC owns, has won-denominated savings worth some $1.3 billion as of the third quarter of 2013, the source said.

It also has accounts in Malaysia and former Soviet republics, the source added.

The findings suggest Iran may be funneling funds to Asian and other countries to evade close monitoring by U.S. and European financial authorities, the source said.

The Supreme National Security Council, Iran's policy-setting body on nuclear programs, has organized activities aimed at sidestepping international sanction measures, according to the source.

A classified memo of the SNSC dated April 30, 2013, shows the council instructed all key bodies in Iran to cooperate with KAA's request to change the names of its affiliates in contracts and other business documents, apparently to hide the firm's activities.

The Central Bank of Iran is playing a leading role in implementing the directive, the source said.

A U.S. Treasury spokesperson stopped short of directly commenting on the allegation but said the department "has previously issued warnings on efforts by the Iranian government to engage in deceptive practices and evade U.S. and international sanctions."

"We have a close relationship with our international partners and continue to reach out to them to discuss Iran sanctions enforcement," the spokesperson said.

The department designated what it regards as other front companies under the IRGC as companies subject to sanction measures even after Iran agreed with the United States and other countries in November to suspend its nuclear programs, including uranium enrichment.