Family members of Iran's slain nuclear scientists and workers stand… (Arash Khamoushi / Associated…)
WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department slapped sanctions Thursday on an Iranian businessman and a network of banks and companies dealing with Tehran amid an international stalemate over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
The move targeted Babak Zanjani, along with a Malaysian bank and an international network of companies that U.S. officials said had moved billions of dollars on behalf of the Iranian regime.
The sanctions, which bar access to the U.S. financial system, are part of Washington's ever-growing economic crackdown on Iran.
The move came days after international talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, failed to make progress toward a deal under which Iran would cease enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon or allow United Nations inspectors greater access to its nuclear facilities. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and continues to enrich uranium in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
U.S. officials said the announcement was unrelated to the failure of the talks in Kazakhstan and was instead part of an effort to stop Iran’s “relentless” effort to evade sanctions.
“As international sanctions have become increasingly stifling, Iran has resorted to criminal money-laundering techniques, moving its oil and money under false names and pretenses,” David Cohen, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
The sanctions take aim at what officials described as a financial network stretching from Malaysia to Tajikistan, Turkey and Iran through which the Iranian regime sought to sell oil on the international market. The transactions provided hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s state-owned oil company, the main source of Tehran’s revenue and the target of increasingly stiff U.S. and European sanctions, the officials said.
Zanjani is chairman of the Sorinet Group of banks and companies that Tehran used as intermediaries to sell oil on the world market, the Treasury announcement said. His group is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and includes front companies in Turkey, Malaysia and Tajikistan, it said.
The companies bought Iranian crude oil from Naftiran Intertrade Co., which was owned or controlled by Iran’s state oil company, the Treasury Department said.
Iran is “being forced into these Rube Goldberg-type networks in an effort to try to get access to revenues, and [is] not being able to do so in a way that escapes our attention,” said a senior Treasury official.
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