By Ovunc Kutlu
WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Tuesday on an international network that includes five individuals and four companies in Iran and Russia to prevent oil sales to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement that the nine targets in the network through which the Iranian regime, working with Russian companies, provides millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government.
"The Assad regime, in turn, facilitates the movement of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) for onward transfer to HAMAS and Hizballah," the statement said.
OFAC said the sanctions prohibit material support to the Syrian government, including shipments of oil to Syrian government-controlled ports, as well as material support to designated terrorist groups.
"Today we are acting against a complex scheme Iran and Russia have used to bolster the Assad regime and generate funds for Iranian malign activity," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
“Central Bank of Iran officials continue to exploit the international financial system, and in this case even used a company whose name suggests a trade in humanitarian goods as a tool to facilitate financial transfers supporting this oil scheme," he added.
The sanctions list include Syrian national Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russia-based company Global Vision Group, which are "central to the delivery of oil from Iran to Syria," according to OFAC.
OFAC added the Global Vision Group works with state-owned Russian company Promsyrioimport, a subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy, to facilitate shipments of Iranian oil from the National Iranian Oil Company to Syria.
To help Syria in oil payments to Russia, Iran sends funds to Russia through Alchwiki and the Global Vision Group, according to OFAC.
In order to conceal its involvement in these transactions, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) makes these payments to Mir Business Bank using an Iranian-based company named Tadbir Kish Medical and Pharmaceutical Company, OFAC explained.
The individuals in the sanctions list also include CBI’s International Department Director Rasul Sajjad, and CBI’s Vice Governor for International Affairs Hossein Yaghoobi.
In addition, First Deputy Director of Promsyrioimport Andrey Dogaev was added to the list for coordinating the sale of Iranian crude oil to the Syrian government.
"Following the CBI’s transfer of funds from Tadbir Kish to Global Vision Group in Russia, Global Vision Group transfers payment to Russia state-owned Promsyrioimport to pay for the oil," the statement said.
OFAC added that Muhammad Qasim al-Bazzal, a Hezbollah member and associate of Qasir, was also being targeted for his support of Hezbollah.