Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Iran says gold exports now need central bank approval
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranians can no longer export gold without approval by the central bank, an official was quoted as saying on Wednesday, in a new effort by the government to restrict outflows of wealth.
The move follows media reports on Tuesday that Iran had banned the export of some 50 basic goods, as the country moves to secure supplies of essential items in the face of tightening Western sanctions which have destabilised its rial currency.
"The export of gold and coins without permission from the central bank has been banned," said customs official Mohammad Reza Naderi, according to the Mehr news agency.
"According to law, (the export of) coins made from precious metals has until now not needed a permit from the central bank, but current economic conditions have resulted in a decision to require a licence from the central bank for the export of these goods."
Naderi said the new policy was adopted because of exchange rate fluctuations and "challenges in the field of foreign trade", Mehr reported without elaborating.
U.S. and European sanctions against Iran's energy and banking sectors, imposed over its controversial nuclear programme, have slashed its oil revenues, which are the major source of its hard currency supplies.
This has triggered a slide in Iran's rial currency, which has lost about two-thirds of its value against the dollar in the open market over the past 15 months as Iranians have scrambled to convert their savings into dollars and euros.
The government has responded by restricting Iranians' access to hard currency, rationing the dollars which it supplies to companies and individuals through the central bank and an official foreign exchange centre.
The restriction on gold exports may be designed to prevent Iranians from switching to gold from hard currencies as a way to move their savings out of the country.
It is not known how much gold may have left Iran this year. The country is not a major gold producer or exporter.
The country's gross official reserves, which include foreign currencies and gold, totalled $106 billion at the end of last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The government does not disclose their size, but some analysts believe they may have shrunk by several tens of billions of dollars this year because of sanctions.
There are signs Iran is building up its gold reserves as the sanctions have made it hard for Tehran to take payment for its oil through bank transfers. Official data from Turkey, a buyer of Iranian oil, suggests nearly $2 billion of gold was sent to Dubai on behalf of Iranian buyers in August.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Andrew Torchia, Ron Askew)