The U.K. Supreme Court overturned a ban stopping Bank Mellat from operating in Britain over allegations it helped finance Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The U.K. government’s case was based on “misconceptions about the facts” and “singled out Bank Mellat without rational grounds,” Judge Jonathan Sumption said in a ruling today.
The British government in 2009 prohibited any company operating in the U.K. from dealing with the Tehran-based bank as part of rules designed to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in Iran. The bank claimed the restriction was illegal and challenged it in court.
“This judgment refers to a 2009 order which is no longer in use,” a spokeswoman for the U.K. Treasury said in a statement. “It does not affect the way in which we currently apply financial restrictions to Iran and will not affect the EU asset freeze which remains in place against Bank Mellat.”
Some of the evidence considered by the court wasn’t made public because of national-security concerns. In the ruling, the court said the 20 minutes of private evidence hadn’t affected its decision.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law as much as it is for Bank Mellat,” the bank’s lawyer, Sarosh Zaiwalla, said in an e-mailed statement. “The judgment will put enormous confidence in the independence of the British judiciary.”
Bank Mellat also won its case at the European General Court in January overturning European sanctions. Those restrictions remain in force while the case is appealed to the European Court of Justice, according to the U.K. ruling. The lender has also faced sanctions from the U.S. Treasury and South Korea.
The Iranian government owns 20 percent of Bank Mellat, which has a 60 percent stake in London-based Persia International Bank PLC, according to a 2011 U.K. court ruling.
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