The Obama administration followed up a planeload of $400 million in cash sent to Iran in January with two more such shipments in the next 19 days, totaling another $1.3 billion, according to congressional officials briefed by the U.S. State, Treasury and Justice departments, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The cash payments – made in Swiss francs, euros and other currencies – settled a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal dating back to 1979, according to the report.
U.S. officials have acknowledged the payment of the first $400 million coincided with Iran`s release of American prisoners and was used as leverage to ensure they were flown out of Tehran`s Mehrabad on the morning of January 17.
The revelations come as Congress returns from a summer recess with Republicans vowing to pursue charges that the White House paid ransom to Tehran, a charge President Barack Obama has repeatedly rejected.
The Obama administration briefed lawmakers on Tuesday, telling them that two further portions of the $1.3 billion were transferred through Europe on January 22 and February 5. The payment ”flowed in the same manner” as the original $400 million that an Iranian cargo plane picked up in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a congressional aide who took part in the briefing, The Wall Street Journal wrote.
The $400 million was converted into non-U.S. currencies by the Swiss and Dutch central banks, according to U.S. and European officials.
The Treasury Department confirmed late Tuesday that the subsequent payments were also made in cash.
The Obama administration previously had refused to disclose the mechanics of the $1.7 billion settlement, despite repeated calls from U.S. lawmakers. The State Department announced the settlement on January 17 but didn`t brief Congress that the entire amount had been paid in cash.
U.S. lawmakers have voiced concern that Iran`s military units, particularly the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, would use the cash to finance military allies in the Middle East, including the Assad regime in Syria, Houthi militias in Yemen, and the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.
Sanctions impair Tehran`s ability to receive payments using the international banking system.
The settlement resulted from a legal arbitration under way in the Netherlands since the early 1980s between the U.S. and Iran. At issue was a $400 million payment Tehran`s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, made to a Pentagon trust fund just months before his government was toppled. The money was earmarked for airplane parts that were never delivered.