London, July 8, IRNA - Melli Bank Plc on Tuesday started legal proceedings at London's High Court against comprehensive sanctions imposed by the EU to freeze its accounts.
Acting for the bank incorporated under British law, barrister Richard Gordon told the court that the sanctions should not apply to Melli Bank Plc and should be suspended pending a judgment by the European Court of First Instance.
The bank in London was strictly regulated by the Financial Services Authority, the UK's financial watchdog, and legally and functionally distinct from its parent company, Gordon was quoted saying.
The legal challenge comes after the EU's secretariat journal, documented the sanctions decision last month, claiming that Bank Melli had 'facilitated numerous purchases of sensitive materials for Iran's nuclear and missile program'.
The decision to freeze the accounts of Bank Melli goes much further than the latest UN sanctions in March, which simply calls on member countries to 'exercise vigilance' over the activities of Iranian financial institutions.
The barrister told the court that the London subsidiary, which adopted operational autonomy in 2002 after it was approved by the FSA as conforming to all UK accounting standards and disclosures, had never been specifically cited in any UN resolution.
The sanctions were disproportionate and amounted to a freezing of assets without evidence and without limit of time, which was an infringement of EU law, he said.
After last month's decision, Melli Bank Plc announced it would make an application before UK courts for judicial review and seeking an interim injunction to suspend the sanctions, while it initiates proceedings at the European Court to challenge the legality.
It said it 'deeply regrets' the decision by the UK government and the EU to include the bank in the sanctions. "This decision is not only unjustifiable but will cause considerable inconvenience and concern to the Bank's customers and staff both," it said.
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