Hong Kong passes laws to seize Iran-linked assets

The new laws bring Hong Kong in line with the latest sanctions against Iran.

Updated: Mar 31, 2011, 11:12 AM IST

Hong Kong: Hong Kong said on Wednesday it had passed laws to comply with UN sanctions against Iran, two months after 20 shipping firms in the city were accused of having links to Tehran`s weapons build-up.

The new laws -- which came into effect last Friday -- brought the city in line with the latest sanctions against Iran including visa bans and asset freezes on Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

In January, the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on two dozen shipping companies affiliated with IRISL, which it accuses of fronting Iranian businesses involved in Tehran`s missile programmes.

Observers have said firms dodging sanctions or engaging in other illicit activity often look to Hong Kong for cover given the ease of registering a business in the city, which is also a major shipping hub.

In November, Hong Kong authorities detained a cargo ship linked to IRISL over an alleged loan default with a group of European banks.

"The amended regulations update existing sanctions against Iran to implement decisions of the United Nations Security Council under Resolution 1929," a government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The UN has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, including a global arms embargo.

Western nations accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear bomb, although Tehran insists its enrichment program is for purely civilian purposes.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, received Beijing`s approval to usher in the new regulations last June, the same month the UN Security Council passed the sanctions.

"The administration took time to deliberate internally on how best to implement the new and expanded sanctions," the government said in a statement Wednesday, without further elaborating.

The US has stepped up its efforts to isolate Iran-linked commercial entities tied to its military programmes since the Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions against it in June last year.

Last week, UN diplomats indicated Iran is under investigation for new attempts to import items from North Korea and China that are banned under UN sanctions, media reports said.

Bureau Report