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NY regulator expands probe into reinsurers' Iran ties

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's top financial regulator has expanded a probe into whether reinsurance companies have written policies on international trade with Iran, which could potentially violate new U.S. sanctions.

In a letter posted to its website on Wednesday, the state's Department of Financial Services asked reinsurers to explain their dealings with entities and people that have ties to Iran.

The department also asked reinsurers to explain procedures in place to ensure compliance with the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, which took effect on July 1.

Twenty reinsurers are getting the letter, including Hannover Re, Lloyd's of London and Swiss Re, a person familiar with the matter said.

Those reinsurers were among those contacted last month by the regulator, whose superintendent is Benjamin Lawsky, over their dealings involving Iran.

Lawsky opened his probe after news reports that Switzerland-based Glencore Xstrata Plc and Trafigura AG had supplied thousands of tons of alumina to an Iranian firm that provided aluminum for Iran's nuclear program.

The new law bans financial services companies that do business in the United States, such as insurers and reinsurers, from providing services to companies that trade with Iran.

Such a ban can make it harder for shippers to transact with Iran, because they need insurance to protect against the risk of losses on big shipments.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)

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