Official: Gov't won't interfere in Ofer bros. sanctions

Requests were made to approach the US, official says, but turned down due to J'lem's role in calling for sanctions on Iran, Israel Radio reports.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
May 30, 2011 08:33
2 minute read.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss

311_Micha Lindenstrauss. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The government will not approach the US government on behalf of the Ofer brothers, a senior government official told Israel Radio on Monday. The official said that Israel cannot approach the US government because Jerusalem has been the strongest voice calling for sanctions against Iran, with whom the Ofer brothers are accused of doing business. He added that requests were made to the government to act on behalf of the Ofers, but they were summarily turned down.

Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee Carmel Shama HaCohen added that, it's not permissible that on the one hand, the Ofer brothers contribute to the welfare of the State of Israel, and on the other hand, caused damage to it. Shama added that there's no chance that the government can remain uninvolved in the affair. The Knesset Economic Committee was scheduled to discuss the affair on Tuesday.

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“A situation whereby a leading Israeli company – or a company linked to it – is trading with Iran at a level that leads the US State Department to sanction it, is a dangerous and a strategic black hole in the Israeli effort to halt the Iranian nuclear project,” said Shama HaCohen a day before.

On Sunday, quality-government watchdog, Ometz, called both Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to initiate comprehensive investigations into all Israeli-based companies doing business with Iran – and into the government authorities under whose watch such alleged transactions took place.

In a letter to Weinstein, the group called for investigations, up to and including the ministerial levels to find out who is responsible, and for what.

The call came days after the US State Department announced it would place sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group for its role in the September 2010 sale of a tanker to an banned Iranian company.

According to a fact sheet released by the State Department, the Ofer Brothers Group, together with Singaporebased Tanker Pacific, “failed to exercise due diligence, and did not heed publicly available and easily obtainable information that would have indicated that they were dealing with IRISL [Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines].”

The Ofer Brother’s Group denied having ever knowingly done business with an Iranian company.

So far both the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry have stated that they are not responsible for supervising the prohibition on trade with enemy states, a policy that rests on a mandatory act from 1939.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials have denied any business ties with Israel.

Iran has no business dealings with “Zionist” companies, Chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines Mohammad Nahavandian said on Friday, according to media reports.

“Based on the laws of the country, any kind of trade or economic transaction with the Zionist regime and its affiliated firms is against the law,” Nahavandian was quoted as saying.

“The news regarding the activities of Zionist firms in regard to Iran is a new game which has surfaced in reaction to other nations welcoming establishing economic ties with Iran,” Nahavandian added. “Thus they [Western powers] are naming some Zionist firms as engaged in doing business with Iran."

Ron Friedman contributed to this report


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