The $1.7 billion was the settlement of a decades-old arbitration claim between the U.S. and Iran. An initial $400 million of euros, Swiss francs and other foreign currency was delivered on pallets Jan. 17, the same day Tehran agreed to release four American prisoners.
The Obama administration had claimed the events were separate, but recently acknowledged the cash was used as leverage until the Americans were allowed to leave Iran. The remaining $1.3 billion represented estimated interest on the Iranian cash the U.S. had held since the 1970s. The administration had previously declined to say if the interest was delivered to Iran in physical cash, as with the principal, or via a more regular banking mechanism.
Earlier Tuesday, officials from the State, Justice and Treasury departments held a closed-door briefing for congressional staff on the payments, according to a Capitol Hill aide familiar with the session. The officials said the $1.3 billion was paid in cash on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
The money came from a little-known fund administered by the Treasury Department for settling litigation claims. The so-called Judgment Fund is taxpayer money
"President Obama's disastrous nuclear deal with Iran was sweetened with an illicit ransom payment and billions of dollars for the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism," said Sen.
"Sending the world's leading state sponsor of terror pallets of untraceable cash isn't just terrible policy," Royce said. "It's incredibly reckless, and it only puts bigger targets on the backs of Americans. ... This cash bonanza has emboldened Iran's radical regime, and undermined America's national security."
Both the House and Senate plan to hold hearings on the payments.
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