Chairman Chaffetz seeks answers for $400 million sent to iran

Published: Aug 3, 2016

Letter requests information on timing of cash delivery

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for information surrounding the Obama administration’s $400 million cash payment to Iran.  The letter also requests Secretary Kerry to appear at a future Oversight Committee hearing.

The letter states: 

“The timing of the first installment of the settlement agreement with Iran creates the appearance that the money was in fact tied to releasing the American hostages… According to The Wall Street Journal, an Iranian news site close to the Revolutionary Guard, the Tasnim agency, reported that the cash arrived in Tehran on the same day the Americans departed—January 16, 2016.” 

“President Obama did not mention the $400 million cash delivery during his January 17, 2016 address. The Administration asserted the timing of the cash payment and the hostage release are coincidental, and are not the result of any quid pro quo.”  

“The Committee is seeking information about the terms and conditions of the Administration’s agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, among other things related to the Iran nuclear deal. We look forward to your appearance before the Committee to answer questions at a future hearing.”

Full text of the letter can be viewed here, or below: 

August 3, 2016 

The Honorable John F. Kerry

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

On January 17, 2016, President Obama announced the Islamic Republic of Iran would release five American detainees and, “in a reciprocal humanitarian gesture,” the United States would grant clemency to six Iranian-Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States, and drop extradition requests for fourteen others.[1]  The President also announced that a “longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States” would be settled by returning to Iran “its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought.”[2]  

The President attributed these developments to “engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis” after striking the Iran nuclear deal.[3]  A high-ranking Iranian official, however, connected the release of the American hostages to the money transfer.  On January 20, 2016, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported the Commander of Iran’s Basij Force, Brigadier General Mohammed Reza Naqdi, said the United States agreed to release $1.7 billion of Iran’s frozen funds in exchange for the hostages.[4]  Naqdi further asserted that “the U.S. doesn’t understand anything but the language of force,” and the “money was returned for the freedom of the U.S. spy and it was not related to the [nuclear] negotiations.”[5]

The timing of the first installment of the settlement agreement with Iran creates the appearance that the money was in fact tied to releasing the American hostages.  On August 2, 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that “[w]ooden pallets stacked with [$400 million in] euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane” in a delivery that coincided with the release of the American hostages.[6]  That payment was purportedly the first installment of the $1.7 billion settlement that the President announced on January 17, 2016.[7]  According to The Wall Street Journal, an Iranian news site close to the Revolutionary Guard, the Tasnim agency, reported that the cash arrived in Tehran on the same day the Americans departed—January 16, 2016.[8]

 President Obama did not mention the $400 million cash delivery during his January 17, 2016 address.[9]  The Administration asserted the timing of the cash payment and the hostage release are coincidental, and are not the result of any quid pro quo.[10]  The Islamic Republic of Iran still holds American prisoners, and, according to The Wall Street Journal, “Iranian officials have demanded in recent weeks the U.S. return $2 billion in Iranian funds that were frozen in New York in 2009.”[11]

The Committee is seeking information about the terms and conditions of the Administration’s agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, among other things related to the Iran nuclear deal.  We look forward to your appearance before the Committee to answer questions at a future hearing.  In the meantime, to help the Committee understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the contemporaneous hostage release and cash delivery, please provide the following documents and information as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 p.m. on August 17, 2016:

  1. All records referring or relating to payments to the Islamic Republic of Iran, including, but not limited to, payment dates, sums, type of currency used, method of delivery, and place of delivery;
  2. All documents or communications referring or relating to efforts to ensure that any money delivered to the Islamic Republic of Iran would not be used to fund the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah, or any terrorist organization;
  3. All documents and communications referring or relating to any formula whereby the Islamic Republic of Iran will release American hostages in exchange for Iranian nationals held in U.S. jails;
  4. All documents and communications referring or relating to negotiations for the January 2016 release of American hostages by the Islamic Republic of Iran;
  5. All documents and communications referring or relating to negotiations for the January  2016 settlement of outstanding Iranian claims against the United States;
  6. All documents and communications referring or relating to any pending payments from the United States to the Islamic Republic of Iran for the release of American hostages currently being detained, including, but not limited to, REDACTED, REDACTED, REDACTED or REDACTED;
  7. A list of all individuals who participated in preparations for, or represented the United States or the Islamic Republic of Iran in negotiations for the January  2016 release of American hostages by the Islamic Republic of Iran; and
  8. A list of all individuals who participated in preparations for, or represented the United States or the Islamic Republic of Iran in negotiations for the January 2016 settlement of outstanding Iranian claims against the United States.

 

Please deliver your responses to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Majority Staff in Room 2157 of the Rayburn House Office Building and the Minority Staff in Room 2471 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The Committee prefers, if possible, to receive all documents in electronic format.  An attachment to this letter contains additional instructions for responding to the Committee’s request.  

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at “any time” investigate “any matter” as set forth in House Rule X. 

Sincerely,

Jason Chaffetz                                                                                   

Chairman                                

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[1] The White House, Statement by the President on Iran (Jan. 17, 2016).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Fars News Agency, Basij Commander:  US Bought Freedom of Spies by Releasing $1.7 bln of Iran’s Frozen Assets, Jan. 20, 2016.

[5] Id.

[6] Jay Solomon and Carol Lee, U.S. Sent Cash to Iran as Americans Were Freed, Obama administration insists there was no quid pro quo, but critics charge payment amounted to ransom, Wall St. J., Aug. 3, 2016.

[7] Id. 

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.