President Obama’s administration may gave gifted Iran an extra $33.6 billion in secret cash and gold payments between 2015 and 2016, an expert on the Iran nuclear deal told Congress.
Tehran received $700 million every month between January 2014 and July 2015 as Obama nailed down details of the nuclear agreement, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Ultimately, the U.S. was set to pay Iran $11.9 billion, but Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said even details surrounding those funds are questionable.
“Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals,” Dubowitz told Congress.
The latest news comes on the heels of reports that the U.S. gave Iran $1.7 billion in hard currency – more than $400 million more than originally reported – just prior to Iran releasing four American hostages.
The Obama administration delivered $400 million to Iran on Jan. 17, the day Iran agreed to free the Americans. Then, the U.S, presented Iran with two more installments totaling $1.3 billion on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5.
“Top administration officials were adamant that the cash payments were the best way to ensure that Iran got immediate access to this money due to its ongoing difficulty accessing international funds still sanctioned by the West,” the Free Beacon reported.
Now members of Congress are questioning the Obama administration payments to Iran in the years leading up to the final nuclear deal.
“In July, the Associated Press cited U.S. officials who estimated that Iran ‘brought home less than $20 billion.’ Were these funds repatriated to Tehran in cash or in gold and precious metals? Through the formal financial system? Or through some combination?” Dubowitz asked in his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.
“The administration should also clarify if the $20 billion is inclusive of the $11.9 billion in [Joint Plan of Action] funds, or if the $20 billion was in addition to the $11.9 billion,” he said. “Either way, it is important to understand how funds were sent. The worst-case scenario here is that Iran may have received as much as $33.6 billion in cash or in gold and other precious metals.”
Dubowitz said a portion of the money was probably distributed in cash and other assets.
The Obama administration has argued that a cash payment was the only way to bypass sanctions and banking restrictions and ensure Iran received the money immediately.
“Iran had to have it in cash,” Paul Ahern, assistant general counsel for enforcement and intelligence at the Treasury Department, told Congress. “Iran was very aware of the difficulties it would face in accessing and using the funds if they were in any other form than cash, even after the lifting of sanctions.”
A cash payment “was the most reliable way that they received the funds in a timely manner, and it was the manner preferred by the relative foreign banks,” Ahren said.
Dubowitz said past disbursements were more than likely handled in the same way.
“If the White House could only send cash to Iran from the start of the JPOA period through the Tribunal payment that could amount to a grant total of 33.6 billion,” he said. “Did any of this money go through the formal financial system? If so, the administration is not being truthful about the 1.7 billion. If many billions arrived in Iran on pallets [of cash] this would be a pretty astounding revelation.”
Former Pentagon official and rogue regime expert Michael Rubin called cash payments “highly irregular,” according to the Free Beacon.
“There’s no reason it needed to be paid now. After all, successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have delayed payments so as to avoid funding Iranian terrorism,” Rubin said. “Likewise, if the United States freezes accounts linked to al Qaeda or Hamas, releasing it and saying, ‘It’s their money anyway,’ would not be a tenable explanation. Cash payments are highly irregular.”
Rubin said Iran has made it abundantly clear that Iran “perceived the payment to be a ransom,” regardless of what the White House has claimed.
“Not only has the delivery of the millions of dollars been perceived as a ransom, provided as an incentive to seize more hostages … but because the money was delivered in cash the payment bolstered the strength of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and augmented its ability to finance and conduct terrorism,” he said.