The US Treasury targeted companies and individuals affiliated with Iran's national shipping line Monday with measures to isolate them from US finance and commerce.
In slapping sanctions on 10 shipping companies and three individuals linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, the Treasury said it was "responding to Iran's continued efforts to evade sanctions and its ongoing creation and use of new front companies, subsidiaries and affiliates to protect IRISL and to advance its proliferation activities."
"As the private sector around the world increasingly turns its back on Iran's national shipping line, IRISL's efforts to evade international sanctions and increased scrutiny have grown more and more desperate," Adam Szubin, director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.
"The persistent attempts by IRISL to deceived the world, including through the front companies identified today, attest to the weakness of IRISL as it tries to maintain a semblance of legitimacy while supporting Iran's proliferation activities."
UAE-based firms Pacific Shipping, Great Ocean Shipping Services, Azores Shipping, Atlantic Intermodal, Crystal Shipping and Pearl Shipping were among the designated companies.
Also singled out for Treasury action were IRISL and Asia Marine Network's agent in Singapore, Sinose Maritime, Singapore-based Leading Maritime, IRISL's regional China office Santex Lines and Fairway Shipping, a shipping company in Britain.
Asia Marine Network's managing director Alireza Ghezel Ayagh, who heads up Leading Maritime, and top IRISL mangers and executives Mohammad Moghaddami Fard and Ahmad Tafazoli were designated as well.
Treasury designated IRISL in September 2008 for providing logistical services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which oversees the country's ballistic missile program.
In a coordinated move, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance unveiled a 317-count indictment of 11 companies and five individuals for their roles in a conspiracy that involves IRISL and its affiliates to evade sanctions. He said the defendants had falsified bank records to access the US financial system.
"IRISL and its sanctioned affiliates used a web of aliases or corporate alter egos across the globe to exploit the services of financial institutions located in Manhattan," Vance said.
"New York remains the number one target of terrorist organizations around the world, and today's joint action will make it more difficult for Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism."
The United States, Israel and other Western powers are at loggerheads with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, a charge Iran strongly denies.
Source: AFP American Edition