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U.S. sanctions oil smuggling network linked to Iran's Quds Force

U.S. sanctions oil smuggling network linked to Iran's Quds Force
New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi kisses the Koran after being sworn-in for his first four-year term of presidency August 5. He vowed to fight U.S. sanctions, such as those imposed Friday targeting a scheme to illegally sell oil to fund the Quds Force. Photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- The United States has levied sanctions on an international oil smuggling network it says supports the Quds Force, a military unit in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the Treasury Department announced Friday.

The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control says the financial action targets Mahmood Rashid Amur al-Habsi, an Omani broker who allegedly partnered with the Quds Force officials to send shipments of Iranian oil to foreign customers.

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Al-Habsi allegedly used two Oman-based companies -- Nimr International and Orbit Petrochemicals Trading -- and Liberia-based Bravery Maritime Corporation to ship tens of millions of dollars worth of oil.

The Treasury Department said al-Habsi "managed a vast network of individuals, shipping and oil companies, and vessels," tampered with automated identification systems on board the vessels, forged shipping documents, paid bribes and circumvented other restrictions.

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"The IRGC-QF is using revenues from its Iranian petroleum sales to fund its malign activities at the expense of the Iranian people," Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement. "These sales rely on key foreign intermediaries to obscure the IRGC-QF's involvement, and Treasury will continue to disrupt and expose anyone supporting these efforts."

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As part of the sanctions, the department froze U.S. assets belonging to al-Habsi and the named companies and barred Americans from doing business with them.

The Treasury announcement comes weeks after the swearing-in of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who has vowed to fight "cruel sanctions" imposed by the United States. Iran's eighth president, he said he plans to continue talks with world powers concerning the 2015 nuclear deal, which stalled earlier this year.

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