The UK government has made a last minute out-of-court deal to settle a £1.3bn damages claim made by an Iranian bank over a UK trading ban.
The undisclosed settlement to Bank Mellat on the eve of what was expected to be a five-week trial raises questions about how big the UK taxpayer’s bill is likely to be, as well as how the UK will transfer the payment to circumvent the comprehensive sanctions regime imposed by the US, which affects the bank.
The Iranian government owns 20% of Bank Mellat, while the remaining 80% is held by the private sector.
In 2009, the UK Treasury alleged that the Tehran-based bank was involved in financing firms involved in Iran’s nuclear programme – allegations that the bank denies – and imposed sanctions on Bank Mellat.
The settlement comes six years after the supreme court ruled that the sanctions had been unlawful and that the government’s response had been “arbitrary and irrational”, and “disproportionate”.
Bank Mellat argued that the sanctions had damaged its reputation and goodwill in Britain and internationally, and caused significant loss.
The government’s Treasury department issued a brief statement, saying: “Bank Mellat’s claims have been concluded on terms confidential to the parties.”
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