July 15 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has imposed fresh sanctions targeting Russian businessman Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for fomenting disorder in Sudan and aiding his ability to evade sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday the United States was targeting three individuals and five front companies in Sudan, Hong Kong and Thailand it accuses of furthering Prigozhin's "destabilizing global activity."
The United States has previously designated Prigozhin and his known companies, including Internet Research Agency over allegations it attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections on behalf of the Russian government, and Private Military Company Wagner, a designated Russian Ministry of Defense proxy force.
The Treasury said the companies targeted Wednesday further Prigozhin's destabilizing operations in Sudan and his ability to evade sanctions by conducting business in U.S. dollars on his behalf despite he being blocked from the U.S. financial system.
"Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his network are exploiting Sudan's natural resources for personal gain and spreading malign influence around the globe," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The State Department said it sanctioned companies M Invest, a front company for Wagner, and its subsidiary Meroe Gold as well as their leaders in connection to Prigozhin's Sudan operations.
According to the Treasury, M Invest was responsible for developing plans for former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to suppress pro-democracy protesters through advocating for further social media disinformation campaigns and the staging of public executions.
M Invest was also awarded agreements to explore gold mining in the country for which it relies on its subsidiary Meroe Gold to oversee on the ground.
"Prigozhin's role in Sudan highlights the interplay between Russia's paramilitary operations, support for preserving authoritarian regimes, such as that of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and exploitation of natural resources," Pompeo said.
Thailand and Hong Kong-based companies Shine Dragon Group Limited, Shen Yang Jing Cheng Machinery and Zhe Jiang Jiayi Small Commodities Trade Company Limited were also blacklisted for facilitating over 100 transactions worth more than $7.5 million sent in the interest of Prigozhin between 2018 and 2019.
These funds supported his activities in Sudan, including the maintenance of his private aircraft, which was identified as blocked property in 2019, the Treasury said.
"Today's actions will further limit attempts by Prigozhin and his backers to foment disorder or undermine democratic reforms in Sudan," Pompeo said.