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Treasury Targets Vessel Shipping Iranian Commodities for Houthis and Qods Force

WASHINGTON — Today, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is taking action against Marshall Islands-registered shipping company Vishnu Inc., whose vessel, the LADY SOFIA, is involved in illicit shipments to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in support of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal, who is sanctioned under U.S. counterterrorism authorities. 

“We remain committed to disrupting the IRGC-QF and the Houthis’ attempts to evade U.S. sanctions and fund additional terrorist attacks,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States will continue to target the key funding streams that threaten civilians and peaceful international trade.”

Today’s action is being taken pursuant to the counterterrorism authority in Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended. OFAC designated Sa’id al-Jamal pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, on June 10, 2021 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. The IRGC-QF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007 for providing support to multiple terrorist groups.

IRGC-QF FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO THE HOUTHIS 

The Vishnu Inc. owned and managed LADY SOFIA (IMO: 9212759) engaged in a ship-to-ship transfer with the recently sanctioned vessel MEHLE (IMO: 9191711) on January 31, 2024, which deceptively obscured its transfer of commodities to the LADY SOFIA through “spoofing”—an automatic identification system (AIS) manipulation that masks the vessel’s true location. Disguised as a fictitious vessel called the “AMOR,” and incorrectly broadcasting its location as the South China Sea, the MEHLE offloaded its illicit cargo to the LADY SOFIA near Singapore. The LADY SOFIA is currently traveling to the PRC, carrying the Iranian commodities it received from the MEHLE on behalf of Sa’id al-Jamal.

The MEHLE was identified on January 12, 2024, as property in which Cielo Maritime Ltd has an interest.  Cielo Maritime Ltd was concurrently designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Sa’id al-Jamal.

Vishnu Inc. is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Sa’id al-Jamal.  The LADY SOFIA is being identified as property in which Vishnu Inc. has an interest.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated person described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. 

In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entity and its blocked property may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any designated person, or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. 

The power and integrity of OFAC sanctions derive not only from OFAC’s ability to designate and add persons to the SDN List, but also from its willingness to remove persons from the SDN List consistent with the law. The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. For information concerning the process for seeking removal from an OFAC list, including the SDN List, please refer to OFAC’s Frequently Asked Question 897 here. For detailed information on the process to submit a request for removal from an OFAC sanctions list, please click here.

Click here for more information on the individuals and entities designated today.

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Official news published at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy2185

- Part of VUGA -USA media group