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Two Convicted of Attempting to Breach Iran Oil Sanctions

oil

Published Nov 22, 2023 3:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two men from Texas have been convicted of sanctions violations and money laundering in connection with a plot to ship crude oil from Iran to China, violating American prohibitions on business with the Iranian oil and banking sectors. 

In 2019, an undercover agent pretending to be an oil trade financier arranged to meet up with Zhang Wang, Daniel Lane and a group of co-conspirators in Dallas. According to charging documents, Wang represented himself as the U.S. agent of a Chinese refinery. Wang told the agent that his firm had already bought two million barrels of oil from Iran and believed the risk of encountering law enforcement was "manageable." 

The agent offered to set up a Polish shell corporation as a straw seller to hide the true origin of the oil, and Wang agreed. He later added that he would recommend the shell firm and it would not encounter any due diligence checks, and that his buyers did not care about the oil's origins as long as it looked clean on paperwork. 

In a later meeting, Lane told the agent that "sanctions can always be massaged . . . you know, there is always a way around it." Lane also explained that he could launder the proceeds through a mineral-rights trading company that he controlled. 

In order to arrange a smooth transfer at the Chinese end of the deal, Wang said that he would set up a "fee" package for "a politician, the banks, the inspection, and the person signing the contract." These individuals would receive these funds in exchange for their agreement to "say this is not Iranian." 

The undercover agent responded that this "looks like a straight . . . bribe," to which Wang said, "I don't want to sugar coat it . . . it is a bribe." 

Last week, a federal jury convicted Zhang and Lane on three counts - sanctions violations, conspiracy to commit sanctions violations, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

“These defendants schemed to buy Iranian oil, hide its origins, and sell it to a refinery in China in disregard of U.S. sanctions against Iran,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department will not tolerate those who would violate U.S. sanctions and imperil our national security for personal profit.”