Iran plays hard on dollar touts

Iran plays hard on dollar touts

TEHRAN - Reuters
Iran plays hard on dollar touts

A man walks past a currency exchange shop in Tehran on Jan 3. REUTERS photo

Iranian authorities will arrest people trading foreign currencies on the black market, media reported yesterday, in the latest attempt to stop a slide in the currency that has, at least in part, been sparked by new Western economic sanctions.

“Street dealers will be prosecuted and those who carry foreign currencies without an invoice will be arrested as of Sunday,” the Ebtekar daily newspaper quoted a deputy central bank governor, Ebrahim Darvishi, as saying.

The Iranian rial fell to a record low against the dollar this month after U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill imposing sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, with Iranians rushing to acquire increasingly scarce hard currencies.

Unattractive offers

Officials who blame speculators for pushing up the price of dollars hope the new measures will stop Iranians hoping to make a quick profit from the rial’s decline.

“The possession of foreign currencies in the absence of an invoice from official outlets is illegal and will be punishable by a fine amounting to double the amount,” Darvishi said.

Exchange offices in Tehran contacted by Reuters said they had halted the sale of dollars completely as the central bank had instructed them to sell at no more than 14,000 rials.

They were offering to buy dollars at 13,900 rials, an unattractive offer after two weeks during which the price of dollars on the open market has been between 16,000 and 17,000 rials.