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Home > Legal Practise, Mortgages, Property > Spanish Banks Shut Doors to Iranian Investors

Spanish Banks Shut Doors to Iranian Investors

September 26th, 2013


Targobank, the last bank still willing to open bank accounts to Iranian investors, has followed the trend of all other Spanish banks and placed a blanket ban on any Iranian national who, for the most part, arrive in the country to buy Spanish property.

These ordinary investors, attracted by the comparatively low prices of Spanish property, are seeking to invest in the country and that that effect, are granted tourist visas (some apply and attain permanent residency) by the Spanish Consulate in Tehran, N.I.E. numbers by district Police Stations, property deeds by Notary Publics and empadronamiento” certificates by Town Halls and yet are, irritatingly, snubbed by Spanish banks on the pretext that laws don’t allow them to do so.

So whilst sanctions against Iran have been tightened and these have been particularly aggressively enforced in the U.S. and Canada and by contagion, those countries with closer links to the superpower, still today no trace of where within those sanctions lies the prohibition of merely opening of a bank account for an Iranian traumatologist, pistachio exporter or car dealer who wishes to buy a property in Marbella, Madrid or Gran Canaria.

This has arguably created a view where anything remotely related to Iran is often viewed as toxic and problematic and thus leaves lawyers, property developers and real estate agents to all but “abandon” business with the numerous Iranians that wish to invest in Spain.

Alas, on closer inspection it appears there is no such blanket ban in Spain because there is no specific regulation by the Bank of Spain, the Ministry of Interior or that of Foreign Affairs to the effect of entitling banks to slam the door in the face of Iranian investors.

And yet when one meets with branch managers armed with the mandatory ‘Know Your Client’ detailed paperwork, excuses fly around: Iranians have been banned by the EU, bosses say it is not possible, the computer system blocks that particular nationality, our entity does not specialize on dealing with such nationals etc. etc. La Caixa, for instance, does request certain disclosures in respect to Iranians but they are not specifically banned from opening accounts…and yet they do so.

Sadly, it all boils down to Spanish financial institutions being terribly scared of retaliatory action by the U.S. Government and so prefer to drop certain foreign citizens as clients, even if they risk being reported to the Banco de España for arbitrarily, when not discriminatorily, refusing to open bank accounts to them.


About Antonio Flores

Antonio Flores is the head lawyer at Lawbird, a Spanish law firm specialised in property and litigation. More on .

Legal Practise, Mortgages, Property , , , ,

  1. September 27th, 2013 at 08:52 | #1

    The risk of retaliatory action the US is definitely real… not only might the bank be banned from doing business in the US, but its upper management could get arrested if they travel to the US.

    The bank would also have to have strict controls preventing Iranian nationals from buying US stocks (even indirectly through funds), or making transfers to or from any “US Person” (citizens, greencard holders, anyone with one American parent, born in the US or having spent more than a certain number of days there in the last 3 years), even if they live in Spain and have never applied for a US passport.

    Eg if the Iranian uses a certified check buys some real estate from US person living in Spain, the bank has just broken the embargo.

  2. Antonio Flores
    September 27th, 2013 at 09:13 | #2

    Hello santcugat,

    Yours comments are very interesting and would explain why banks are so reluctant.

    The fear becomes apparent when seeing some footage taken with a spy camera on several branches along the Spanish costas but, more so, the discriminatory and disgraceful attitude of some staff members.

    This footage will be released in the coming week or so.


  3. October 3rd, 2013 at 14:10 | #3

    Dear Antonio,,how will this affect Iranians wishing to take advantage of the Golden Visa? will they be allowed to buy a property? and obtain Visa and then not be able to open an account for their utilities?
    I have also clients from Syria we also struggling to open a bank account for them? any ideas welcome?

  4. Antonio Flores
    October 3rd, 2013 at 14:40 | #4

    Hi Judith,

    Actually no, there is no impediment for any applicant from any country in world to apply for this type of residency, according to the Act. That said, if banks keep acting ilegally by refusing to open accounts to individuals from certain countries (as a blanket ban) then what we suggest you do is offer them, for a fee, to pay the utilities ‘manually´, that is, by paying them directly over the counter in each office.

    We have in our office a client whose family features in the Forbes list and he refuses to pay via standing order. His solution is to have his Spanish representative, who is employed on a full basis to look after his Spanish affairs, pay every bill as they are due.

  5. October 3rd, 2013 at 16:02 | #5

    Hi another question,,I have just been told this….a little problem with the people from Syria, as you know the Consulate requires criminal records with the application visa, and now U.E does not recognized the Syrian Government, that means that any document from them has not validity for the European Authorities.

    So does this mean that Syrians will not be able to get a Visa because of criminal record procedure?

  6. Petro
    November 17th, 2014 at 12:03 | #6

    Dear Antonio,

    at this time, can Iranians open bank accounts in Spain in order to purchase property there. Can it be done since there is no legal base for this ban. Based on what you have said, it is the bank’s private decision.

  7. Antonio Flores
    November 17th, 2014 at 12:34 | #7


    Banks are refusing because of fears of reprisal from US Government, and there is no other reason for it. The problem lies with forcing a bank to open an account on legal grounds, which would mean having to go to Court. The situation has now become untenable but we cannot find the solution, unfortunately.

  8. seyed ahmadzadeh
    February 24th, 2016 at 02:22 | #8

    I was invited to Spain by a company that I scouted as ideal for importing their technology to Iran. I was pleasantly surprised by their very specially hospitable treatment, & everything was great.

    Later, during travel from Barcelona where the conference was to Illes Belears, Spain as an I was treated like a piece of garbage by the most of the population with repetitive acts of hate crime, discrimination, & abuse leading to several court cases.

    I am ashamed to have witnessed such injustice & hatred & now my perception of Spain & its people along with people of Europe will never be the same.

    I have since then decided against any business with Spain & several Iranian investors with capitals of over 2 mill each including some bank boards of Tehran have all been notified of this charade I have experienced here in Spain.

  9. Antonio Flores
    February 24th, 2016 at 13:38 | #9

    Dear Seyed,

    I am sorry to hear that this awful situation happened to you, which is actually -in my experience- unheard of. I cannot say the same about Spanish banks -and for that matter also foreign banks operating in Spain- who have repetitively snubbed and ignored Iranian investors residents of Iran (not those residents in other countries), over some unwritten restriction.

    The lifting of sanctions will hopefully mean that the perception will change and Iranians will be able to open accounts, letters of credit, loans etc.

  10. Reza
    November 16th, 2016 at 20:25 | #10

    Dear Antonio,

    I am an Iranian citizen that I have bought a property in Estepona recently for summer vacations. Actually I need a bank account only for paying the bills but many Spanish banks refuse to open a bank account for me. Do you know any bank that Open account for Iranians? What is the solution for me? Thanks

  11. Antonio Flores
    November 16th, 2016 at 20:30 | #11

    Hello Reza,

    This is certainly a problem which our firm gets round by hiring a person who specifically deals, for a fee, with all property-related payments. We have over 20 Iranian clients that are pretty happy with the service.

  12. Ali
    November 4th, 2018 at 16:44 | #12

    Dear Antonio, i have a wuestion. Here i read here that there is service to pay fees for iranians which banks dont let them open account there . Is it possible to let me know how and do you know any body to this for iranians in Malaga????

  13. Sahba
    December 7th, 2018 at 13:08 | #13

    Thanks for sharing this info. I am an Iranian recently moved to Spain to work ( My support comes from EU to do scientific invistgation at CSIC). When I came here I already had NIE and all strong documents which allowed me to work and live here. However I had a terrible experience which bank to open an account for me and the whole thing took 1 months after the director of my institute talk to the bank in person. They opened an account for me at Banco Santander but forced me to sign a paper that I would have no economic communication with Iran. Now that 2 months past I am slowly thinking to buy a property in Spain but now the question is how to bring my Iranian money here….
    I was thinking to open an account in a Swiss bank and then pay for the property from that bank. Do you think this is possible or it has legal issues?! Thanks for helping