WASHINGTON: On Thursday, Washington described a “shadow banking” network that moves billions of dollars and sanctioned 39 entities, many of which are based in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.
Companies like Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. (PGPICC) and Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd were singled out because the US Treasury Department claims they helped sanctioned Iranian businesses hide their trade with foreign customers by providing them access to the international financial system.
The latest US action against Iran comes at a time when efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled and tensions between the mullah-ruled country and the West have been growing as Iranians continue to protest the government.
As hopes of reviving the nuclear pact have waned, Washington has focused on Chinese companies exporting Iranian petrochemicals.
Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the United States Treasury, has said that “Iran cultivates complex sanctions evasion networks” to allow sanctioned Iranian companies to continue trading.
He claimed that the new measures demonstrated the United States’ determination to uphold sanctions and its “ability to disrupt Iran’s foreign financial networks, which it uses to launder funds.”
The spokesman for China’s embassy in the United States, Liu Pengyu, said that the US actions were “typical unilateral sanctions and illegal ‘long-arm jurisdiction,'” both of which were counterproductive to Chinese interests.
The United States “has been fanning the flame and fueling the fight with more weaponry,” he said, adding that China had “actively promoted peace talks and sought a political solution” in Ukraine.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York.
The action taken on Thursday will prevent any American citizens from having any dealings with the designated individuals and will result in the freezing of their US-based assets. People who do business with them in particular ways are also vulnerable to sanctions.
According to the Treasury’s website, a significant number of the Thursday designated entities have their headquarters in the United Arab Emirates or Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based companies Foraben Trading Limited, Hongkong Well International Trading Limited, and Salita Trade Limited were among those accused by the Treasury of sending millions of dollars in petrochemical sales proceeds to China via wire transfer.
A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said that top sanctions official Brian Nelson would be visiting the UAE to express concern over the country’s “poor sanctions compliance” earlier this year.
During his trip, Nelson also stopped in Turkey to deliver a message that Washington will be enforcing its sanctions in a strong fashion.
Two Turkish companies and an Iranian firm, Mehr Petrochemical Company, were blacklisted on Thursday.
The move on Thursday, according to former Treasury Department official Brian O’Toole, will make it more difficult for Iran to continue shipping oil and receiving payment for it.
O’Toole deemed this a “pretty big deal,” stating that it “should have an impact” on Iran’s ability to sell.