Iran’s Bank Melli Loses EU Court Challenge to Unfreeze Funds

Iran’s Bank Melli, the state-run lender that is subject to European Union sanctions, lost an EU court bid to unfreeze its funds.

The EU’s highest court rejected the Tehran-based bank’s challenge to a 2008 decision by EU governments that froze assets belonging to Bank Melli and its units because the lender helped Iran buy “sensitive materials” for its nuclear and missile programs.

The freezing of the funds of a bank owned or controlled by a company “engaged in nuclear proliferation is necessary and appropriate,” the EU court said in an e-mailed statement.

U.S. and EU leaders are trying to tighten restrictions on Iran, which they suspect of developing nuclear weapons. The EU will ban oil imports from Iran starting July 1 as part of measures to ratchet up the pressure on the Persian Gulf nation.

Today’s ruling from the EU’s Court of Justice is binding. Iran’s largest government-owned lender lost earlier bids to overturn the sanctions and to suspend them during the court action.

Bank Melli didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

The case is C-380/09 P Melli Bank v Council.

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