US sanctions alleged jet fuel smugglers for Russian forces in Syria

US sanctions alleged jet fuel smugglers for Russian forces in Syria
The United States announced sanctions against individuals and shipping vessels believed to be involved in a scheme to move money and fuel to Russian forces fighting in Syria.
2 min read
26 September, 2019
The alleged jet fuel smuggling operation supplied Russian forces supporting Syrian President Assad [AFP/Getty]
The United States on Thursday announced new sanctions targeting an alleged jet fuel smuggling operation to supply Russian forces operating in Syria.

Three individuals, five shipping vessels and a Moscow-based front company participated in a scheme to move money and fuel to Russian forces supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the US Treasury announced.

"Assad's despotic regime is under an international spotlight for using chemical weapons and committing atrocities against innocent Syrian civilians and they rely on these types of illicit networks to stay in power," Sigal Mandelker, Treasury's undersecretary for counterterrorism, said in a statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation found the Moscow-based Maritime Assistance LLC was a front for the Russian shipping company Sovfracht-Sovmortrans Group, which had been placed under US sanctions in September 2016.

After Sovfracht was blacklisted, Maritime Assistance carried out business on its behalf, selling and shipping jet fuel in 2016 and 2017 to Banias, Syria for use by Russian military aircraft.

"Russia's support of the Assad regime enabled its continued bombing campaigns that destroyed numerous hospitals, schools and public spaces, resulting in civilian deaths," the statement said.

In addition to Maritime Assistance, the Treasury Department on Thursday blacklisted three managers from Sovfracht for their alleged roles in the scheme: Ivan Okorokov, director of Marine Transport, Karen Stepanyan, deputy director, and Ilya Loginov, deputy general director for legal support.

Five vessels allegedly involved were also added to the list.

As a result of the action, US banks are forbidden from moving money on behalf of the company and individuals, freezing them out of much of the global financial system, and their access to any US assets is blocked.

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