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U.S. Penalizes Companies for Providing Fuel to Assad Forces


US imposes sanctions on companies providing jet fuel to Assad regime
US imposes sanctions on companies providing jet fuel to Assad regime

The Obama administration, seeking to cut off the flow of oil to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, on Wednesday 17 Dec 2014 imposed penalties on five people and six companies it said were defying American sanctions and helping Syria’s government attack its own citizens.
Treasury Department officials said the companies were providing specialty fuels and oil for use by the government to carry out its military campaign. The financial penalties come as President Obama continues to face questions about whether his military campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria is indirectly helping Mr. Assad in the country’s raging civil war.
The officials described an elaborate scheme by which companies based in Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and the Netherlands sought to flout the sanctions by falsifying records and mislabeling cargo containing specialty petroleum products bound for Syria.
“So long as the illegitimate Assad regime carries out brutal attacks on its own people, we will seek to disrupt its critical military support networks and increase the financial and economic pressure it faces,” David S. Cohen, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
Mr. Cohen’s targets Wednesday included the Abdulkarim Group, a Syria-based company, and the Netherlands-based Staroil B.V., which the Treasury Department said had been seeking since last year to get around American sanctions on Syria by arranging for the shipment of aviation fuel products through an intermediary port in Poland. Wael Abdulkarim, the director of the Abdulkarim Group, and the Staroil executives Alexander Hollebrand and Paul Van Mazijk were also singled out.
The American government also targeted Rixo International Trading Ltd. and Bluemarine SA, both based in Switzerland, and Halis Bektas, a senior executive at both companies. The Treasury Department charged that the companies sneaked aviation fuel into Syria by abruptly rerouting shipments bound for other countries and furnishing inaccurate documents and invoices.
According to the Treasury Department, the Maxima Middle East Trading Company, based in the United Arab Emirates, was sanctioned for helping to carry out the scheme to get the aviation fuel into Syria, which officials said also involved Pangates International Corporation, another Emirates-based company that the Treasury blacklisted in July. The administration also penalized Ahmad Barqawi, the general manager of Maxima Middle East Trading and Pangates International.
In one deal mentioned in Wednesday’s statement, the Treasury Department said Staroil, Pangates, Maxima and Abdulkarim had worked with a Russian oil and gas firm in June to buy oil for transfer to government-controlled refineries in Homs and Damascus. American officials also listed several other large petroleum transfers into Syria over the last year, including through Turkey and Romania.
The sanctions freeze any assets the companies or executives hold subject to American jurisdiction and bar Americans from financial and commercial transactions with them.
The companies could not be immediately reached for comment.