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US sanctions 10 more entities in campaign to squelch 'illicit' sale of Iran's oil, petrochemicals

Highlights

'Enforcement actions will continue on a regular basis'

Marks fourth round of action against sanction evaders

Companies in China, India, the UAE caught in latest round

  • Author
  • Jasmin Melvin
  • Editor
  • Richard Rubin
  • Commodity
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As negotiations to rein in Iran's nuclear program have stalled, the US has ratcheted up its enforcement of sanctions on Iran's oil and petrochemical sales, cracking down Sept. 29 on several international brokers and front companies that have facilitated exports to buyers in Asia.

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

The JCPOA of 2015 set restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from US sanctions. The Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran's oil, petrochemicals, shipping and other sectors in 2018. Talks to revive the deal have again hit a roadblock, with US officials contending that certain demands from Tehran are outside the scope of the JCPOA and stand in the way of reaching agreement.

Restarting nuclear controls on Iran could lift oil sanctions and return as much as 1 million b/d to the tight global market that has few options for near-term incremental supply.

S&P Global Commodity Insights, citing shifting goal posts and dragged-out talks, no longer assumes an Iran deal will happen this or next year, which would keep Iran's crude and condensate exports around 800,000 b/d at most.

"These enforcement actions will continue on a regular basis, with an aim to severely restrict Iran's oil and petrochemical exports," the State and Treasury departments said in press releases. "Anyone involved in facilitating these illegal sales and transactions should cease and desist immediately if they wish to avoid US sanctions."

The latest sanctions freeze assets of companies in China, India and the UAE for playing a critical role in concealing the origin of Iranian shipments and enabling two sanctioned Iranian brokers to transfer funds and ship millions of dollars' worth of Iranian products to buyers in Asia.

This marks the fourth such notice since mid-June as the Biden administration shows no signs of taking out of its crosshairs entities and individuals that have helped Iran evade sanctions on its oil and petrochemical products.

New sanctions

Iranian petrochemical brokers Iran Chemical Industries Investment and Middle East Kimiya Pars were sanctioned for selling petrochemical and petroleum products to previously sanctioned Iranian broker Triliance Petrochemical for export to India, the Treasury Department said.

Sanctions were also levied against India's Tibalaji Petrochem Private Limited for buying Triliance-brokered petrochemical products for shipment to China; Hong Kong-based front company Sierra Vista Trading Limited, which Triliance used to conceal petrochemical purchases from Iranian producers that were sent to China; and the UAE's Clara Shipping and Virgo Marine.

According to Treasury, Triliance used front companies to pay freight charges to Clara Shipping for shipment of Iran's petrochemical and oil products to east Asia, and paid Virgo Marine to arrange vessels to store and transport Iran's petrochemicals, including use of the company's Gas Allure LPG tanker.

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Hong Kong's Sophychem HK Limited and ML Holding Group Limited for their roles in aiding tens of millions of dollars' worth of petrochemical sales by Iran's Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Company, a subsidiary of the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry conglomerate that accounts for half of Iran's petrochemical exports.

Separately, the State Department imposed sanctions on Zhonggu Storage and Transportation and WS Shipping, both based in China.

Zhonggu Storage and Transportation "operates a commercial crude oil storage facility for Iranian petroleum that provides a vital conduit for the Iranian petroleum trade," and WS Shipping serves as "the ship manager for a vessel that has transported Iranian petroleum products," the State Department said.