U.S. Extends Sanctions on Venezuelan Oil Including Six Tankers 

US extends sanctions on Venezuelan oil including 6 tankers
(file photo)

Published Jan 21, 2021 3:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

In one of its final actions, the Trump administration extended the sanctions targeting the Venezuelan oil industry. Saying that it was targeting orchestrators and facilitators who have conspired with Venezuelan and Mexican interests to broker the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of Venezuelan oil, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated three individuals, fourteen entities, and six tankers for their ties to a network attempting to evade United States sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector.

“Those facilitating the illegitimate Maduro regime’s attempts to circumvent United States sanctions contribute to the corruption that consumes Venezuela,” said now former Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States remains committed to targeting those enabling the Maduro regime’s abuse of Venezuela’s natural resources.”

Included in the actions was the designation and blocking of two Russian shipping companies and one Venezuelan company along with six tankers that the U.S. said have recently transported Venezuelan oil facilitated continued sanctions evasion and related activities by the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela. Fides Ship Management located in Odessa, Ukraine was cited along with a Liberian-flagged crude oil tanker, the Baliar, and four Cameroon-flagged tankers, the Balita, Domani, and Freedom, which the company operates or manages. Rustanker was also cited as the registered owner of a Russian-flagged crude oil tanker the Sierra. Instituto Nacional de los Espacios Acuaticos e Insulares located in Venezuela was cited as the registered owner of the Russian-flagged crude oil tanker Maksim Gorky.

The regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro the U.S. says has continued to use PdVSA as its primary conduit for corruption to exploit and profit from Venezuela’s natural resources. The latest actions built of the June 2020 designations that targeting a Mexico-based network the U.S. reported was involved in the illicit sale of Venezuelan oil.

Two companies, Elemento based in Valletta, Malta, and Swissoil, based in Geneva, Switzerland, were included in the blocking action. Between July 2019 and July 2020, Elemento the U.S. said lifted and brokered the sale of at least five shipments of Venezuelan crude oil supplied by PdVSA. Swissoil often acted as the consignee, or the entity financially responsible for the receipt of a shipment, for oil shipments brokered by Elemento as well as being the recipient of at least one shipment of Venezuelan oil in Asia. Both companies were designated for operating in the Venezuelan oil sector and for materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, PdVSA.

One individual, Philipp Paul Vartan Apikian, was designated as the owner and director of Swissoil, while two others, an Italian citizen and one with dual Spanish-Venezuelan citizenship were cited for their dealings to coordinate the purchase and sale of Venezuelan crude oil. Also, nine entities owned or controlled by the individuals as well as Elemento were designated in the new action.

As a result of these designations, all property and interests in property of these individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.