U.S. Treasury moves against Iranian controlled shipping network

Written by Nick Blenkey
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The U.S.Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken action against a large shipping network that, it says, “is directed by and financially supports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its terrorist proxy Hizballah.”

According to OFAC, over the past year, the IRGC-QF has moved oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more through this network for the benefit of Syria’s Assad regime, Hizballah, and other illicit actors. 

“Senior IRGC-QF official and former Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Qasemi oversees this sprawling network, which features dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators,” says OFAC. “This complex network of intermediaries enables the IRGC-QF to obfuscate its involvement in selling Iranian oil. The IRGC-QF also relies heavily on Hizballah officials and front companies to broker associated contracts.”

OFAC also is issuing a new shipping advisory to the maritime community warning of these types of schemes and the sanctions risks associated with blocked persons.

“Iran continues to take provocative actions to destabilize the region and the world. Treasury’s action against this sprawling petroleum network makes it explicitly clear that those purchasing Iranian oil are directly supporting Iran’s militant and terrorist arm, the IRGC-Qods Force,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Our actions over the last two weeks should serve as a strong warning to anyone considering facilitating the Qods Force’s oil sales that there will be swift consequences.”

“The Iranian regime is leveraging a terrorist organization as its chief conduit for obfuscating and selling hundreds of millions of dollars of illicit oil to fuel its nefarious agenda. Iran’s exportation of oil directly funds acts of terrorism by Iranian proxies and atrocities by the Assad regime against innocent people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “This vast oil-for-terror shipping network demonstrates how economically reliant Tehran is on the IRGC-QF and Hizballah as financial lifelines. The international community must vehemently reject Iranian oil and related products in the same way that it rejects the violent acts of terrorism these networks fund.”

In spring 2019 alone, this IRGC-QF-led network employed more than a dozen vessels to transport nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil, predominantly to the Syrian regime. These shipments, taken collectively, sold for more than half a billion dollars. The same network also sold nearly 4 million barrels of condensate and hundreds of thousands of barrels in gas oil, bringing in another quarter billion dollars.

Iranian officials increasingly seek to deceive potential customers into buying Iranian oil. The network, run by IRGC-QF official Rostam Qasemi, attempted on multiple occasions to pass off Iranian cargo as Iraqi-origin.

Today, OFAC is announcing the designation of some 16 entities and 10 individuals pursuant to E.O. 13224, and is also identifying 11 vessels as property in which blocked persons have an interest. The IRGC and Hizballah, both identified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. Department of State under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, are also designated pursuant to E.O. 13224.

OFAC SHIPPING ADVISORY

Today OFAC also issued a new advisory to the maritime community to warn of the risks involved with participating in illicit schemes such as the IRGC-QF’s oil-for-terror shipping network. This advisory is in addition to the Maritime Petroleum Shipping Community issued by OFAC on March 25, 2019, which warns of sanctions risks related to oil shipments to Syria, including those from Iran.

Download the advisory HERE

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