Tehran (AFP) - Iran's judiciary chief said Monday that government officials must not make accusations of vast money-laundering operations by powerful institutions, which could be exploited by the enemy.
The criticism followed statements by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Khabar Online news agency last week in which he said: "Money laundering is a reality in our country, and a lot of people are benefitting from it."
Zarif said "thousands of billions" of rials were being laundered by unnamed organisations in Iran, and that these groups were behind efforts to block new laws against money laundering and terrorist financing.
"If there is huge money laundering in the country, why did you not report this to the judiciary?" said Sadegh Larijani, judiciary chief, in a speech on Monday, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
"The enemy's best tool is economic pressure... In such a situation officials are expected not to make two-sided statements that could be misused by the enemy," he added, without naming Zarif.
The government introduced four new laws this year aimed at meeting demands set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors global efforts to counter money laundering and terrorist financing.
Conservatives groups have attacked the bills, saying they would undermine Iran's ability to support allied militant groups in the region, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
But Zarif said wealthy groups were also involved because they opposed greater financial transparency.
"There are special interests behind some of these concerns and propaganda," he said.
"I don't aim to pin this to any certain organisation, but those places that do launder thousands of billions are certainly financially capable of spending a few hundred billion on propaganda and psychological operations in the country," he added.
Larijani hit back on Monday, saying: "The authorities should not say things that drop like a dagger into the heart of the system."
Iran is alone with North Korea on the FATF blacklist, but the Paris-based organisation has suspended counter-measures since June 2017 while it works on reforms.
One bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August.
The remaining three have been approved by parliament but have been held up by higher authorities that oversee legislation.