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US sanctions Iran oil shipping network, warns maritime industry to avoid risks

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US sanctions Iran oil shipping network, warns maritime industry to avoid risks

Washington — The US sanctioned an Iranian oil shipping network, including 11 oil tankers and former Iranian oil minister Rostam Ghasemi, for an "oil-for-terror" scheme that has moved about 10 million barrels of oil in recent months, largely to Syria, top State Department official Brian Hook said Wednesday.

The Treasury Department warned the global maritime industry to avoid dealing with the individuals, companies and vessels on the list or face sanctions.

Hook also announced rewards of up to $15 million for information leading to the disruption of financial support for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including oil sales.

"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," Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.

"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," she added.

Treasury said Iranian officials "increasingly seek to deceive potential customers into buying Iranian oil," including by trying to pass it off as Iraqi crude.

The latest sanctions target Ghasemi, who was the country's oil minister from 2011-13, and the India-based Mehdi Group, which manages at least seven of the vessels used by the network, Treasury said.

11 OIL TANKERS SANCTIONED

The action targets Mehdi subsidiaries Bushra Ship Management, Five Energy Oil Trading, Fourteen Star Shipping Management, Khadija Ship Management, Penta Ocean Ship Management & Operation, and Vaniya Ship Management.

Oil tankers added to the Iran sanctions include the Bonita Queen, Delice, Destiny, Devrez, Happiness 1, Jasmine, Sarak, Sinopa, Sobar, Solan and Tour 2.

Late Friday, Treasury sanctioned Iranian VLCC Adrian Darya 1, previously called Grace 1, and its captain. The tanker was released by Gibraltar more than a month after being seized on suspicion of attempting to deliver oil to Syria.

Iran said it sold the Adrian Darya 1 and its 2.1 million barrels of oil to an unnamed buyer.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo subsequently threatened sanctions on any country that allows the tanker to dock at its ports.

Iran has repeatedly issued threats to close or disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, should the US sanctions block its oil shipments. The Strait of Hormuz is a critical chokepoint through which 30% of the world's seaborne oil transits.

Iranian oil exports have plunged in the past few months due to US sanctions crippling the country's oil export revenues. Crude and condensate shipments out of Iran were averaging just over 450,000 b/d in July, preliminary data from cFlow showed, compared with 549,730 b/d and 874,666 b/d in June and May, respectively.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jeff Mower, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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