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Thursday, May 26, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan owner will spare U.S. Citgo operations

WASHINGTON — The United States has sanctioned seven companies for allegedly trading with Iranian-owned entities banned by the United States including a Venezuelan firm that owns Citgo and a major Israeli company.


Foreign companies sanctioned by Washington were identified as Iran's PCCI, the United Arab Emirates' Royal Oyster Group and Speedy Ship. Sanctions were also placed on companies from Monaco and Venezuela. Officials said all of the sanctioned companies would be banned from receiving U.S. loans or export licenses.

Officials acknowledged that U.S. sanctions would not affect the companies in the same way. They said one sanctioned firm, Venezuela's PDVSA would be allowed to export gasoline to the United States. PDVSA owns the U.S. fuel company Citgo.

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Citgo Petroleum Corporation is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products.

"By imposing these sanctions we're sending a clear message to companies around the world: those who continue to irresponsibly support Iran's energy sector or help facilitate Iran's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions will face significant consequences," Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said.

For the first time, the United States also slapped sanctions on an Israeli company for trading with Iran.

The administration identified Israel's Ofer Brothers Group as helping Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The State Department said Ofer, a leading Israeli company, sold a tanker to the IRGC's Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, assigned to transport missile and nuclear parts to the Teheran regime. Ofer was said to have worked with Singapore's Tanker Pacific in the $8.45 million ship sale.

Ofer denied any involvement in the sale of ships to Teheran. A company statement said the Israeli government could confirm this.

"We have never sold ships to Iran," Ofer said.

Ofer, owned by Israel's richest family, holds a significant stake in such former Israeli state-owned companies as Zim, Israel Chemicals and Oil Refineries.

"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 U.S. State Department said.

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