US issues new sanctions against Iranian oil sector

The new sanctions will be reversed if Iran returns to the JCPOA nuclear deal.

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005 (photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)
A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005
(photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)

The US Treasury issued new sanctions against an international network of companies involved in the sale of Iranian petrochemicals and petroleum products to south and east Asia on Thursday.

The sanctions target Iranian brokers and a number of front companies in the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and India that facilitated financial transfers and the shipping of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.

The front companies helped conceal the origin of Iranian shipments and enabled two sanctioned Iranian brokers, Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (Triliance) and Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. (PGPICC),  to transfer funds and ship Iranian petroleum products to buyers in Asia.

“The United States is committed to severely restricting Iran’s illicit oil and petrochemical sales,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson in a press statement. “So long as Iran refuses a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States will continue to enforce its sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.”

The Treasury announcement stressed that the US will continue to accelerate the enforcement of sanctions on Iran's petroleum industry which would have been removed with a return to the JCPOA nuclear deal, as long as Iran continues to accelerate its nuclear program in violation of the deal. These sanctions will be reversible with a return to the JCPOA.

An oil tanker loads gas in Assaluyeh seaport at the Persian Gulf, 1,400 km (870 miles) south of Tehran, Iran May 27, 2006. (credit: MORTEZA NIKOUBAZI/ REUTERS)An oil tanker loads gas in Assaluyeh seaport at the Persian Gulf, 1,400 km (870 miles) south of Tehran, Iran May 27, 2006. (credit: MORTEZA NIKOUBAZI/ REUTERS)

The Treasury called the Triliance broker a "critical component of Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical sectors," adding that it has purchased millions of dollars worth of products from these sectors from Iran-based petrochemical brokers Iran Chemical Industries Investment Company and Middle East Kimiya Pars Co. The products were eventually shipped to India.

Triliance has been designated in the past for its activities in facilitating the export of Iranian petrochemical products. The broker relies upon front companies such as the Hong Kong-based Sierra Vista Trading Limited and the UAE-based Clara Shipping LLC in order to conceal the purchase of the products and to ship the products.

The UAE-based Virgo Marine company has also received millions of dollars from Triliance since the beginning of this year to arrange vessels for storing and transporting Iranian petrochemicals, including with the vessel Gas Allure.

All the mentioned companies are being designated for having "materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, Triliance," said the Treasury.

The Hong Kong-based Sophychem HK Limited has purchased tens of millions of dollars worth of Iranian petrochemicals from the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Commercial Company for onward shipment to China and Singapore. ML Holding Group Limited also helped facilitate tens of millions of dollars worth of Iranian petrochemical sales to China for the Iranian broker.

The two companies are being designated for having "materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services in support of" the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Commercial Company.

All property and interests in property of the designated entities that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

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