US lifts sanctions on Ofer group for Iran trade

Israeli conglomerate had been blacklisted for deal which provided Tehran with oil tanker. The group had claimed ignorance of Iran's involvement.

oil tanker 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
oil tanker 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The United States on Tuesday removed an Israeli holding company from a sanctions blacklist for trade with Iran, clarifying a step taken in May that cast a shadow over Israel's richest family.
Ofer Brothers Group had denied wrongdoing after it was included on a US State Department sanctions list in May and accused of being part of a deal to sell Iranians a tanker for $8.65 million.
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The State Department issued a note on Tuesday removing the Ofer Brothers Group from the list of sanctioned entities. It substituted two other firms indirectly owned by the Ofer conglomerate, one a corporate manager and the other a ship-owning company.
"This action clears our name," Ofer Holdings Group said in a statement.
The billionaire Ofer brothers had long denied wrongdoing, saying they did not realize the buyer had been a front for an Iranian company.
But the State Department had said at the time: “We believe that Tanker Pacific and Ofer Brothers Group 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.”
The May sanctions list included other companies such as PCCI, the Royal Oyster Group and Speedy Ship of the United Arab Emirates, Tanker Pacific of Singapore and Associated Shipbroking of Monaco.
The sanctions barred Ofer Brothers Group from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, from obtaining loans over $10 million from US financial institutions and from receiving US export licenses.
The Ofers are Israel's richest family. They control Israel Corp, one of the country’s largest investment companies. Brothers Sammy and Yuli Ofer have both died since the sanctions were announced.
Ron Friedman and Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.