Three India-Based Firms Among Dozen Companies Hit With US Sanctions For Trade Ties With Iran

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Washington D.C., United States of America (USA)

A Russian drone is seen during a Russian drone strike, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made UAVs Shahed-136, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine October 17, 2022. (Reuters File Photo)

The US govt said these companies, individuals and vessels have played a central role in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian UAVs to Russia

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on over a dozen companies, individuals and vessels, including three from India, for facilitating illicit trade and UAV transfers on behalf of the Iranian military. The US government says that these companies have played a central role in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The United States is today imposing sanctions on 16 entities and eight individuals, as well as identifying as blocked property five vessels and one aircraft, that have facilitated illicit trade and the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in support of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and the regime’s UAV development and procurement,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Three India-based companies

Among the 16 entities, the three India-based companies slapped with sanctions for supporting Sahara Thunder are Zen Shipping, Port India Private Limited, and Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited. “Among today’s targets is Sahara Thunder, a key front company for MODAFL’s illicit financing and a central player in Iran’s design, development, manufacture, and sale of thousands of UAVs, many of which have ultimately been transferred to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine,” the State Department said.

Iranian military entity Sahara Thunder relies on a vast shipping network involved in the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) to multiple jurisdictions including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Venezuela, the US Treasury Department statement said.

“Sahara Thunder has entered into time-charter contracts with India-based Zen Shipping and Port India Private Limited for the Cook Islands-flagged vessel CHEM (IMO 9240914), which is managed and operated by UAE-based Safe Seas Ship Management FZE,” it said. “Sahara Thunder has used the CHEM to conduct multiple shipments of commodities since 2022. Iran-based Arsang Safe Trading Co. has provided ship management services in support of several Sahara Thunder-related shipments, including those by the CHEM,” the Treasury said.

Iran-based Asia Marine Crown Agency has served as the port agent in Bandar Abbas, Iran supporting several Sahara Thunder shipments, according to the US Treasury Department.  “India-based Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited and UAE-based company Trans Gulf Agency LLC have worked together to provide ship management services in support of Sahara Thunder. The UAE and Iran-based Coral Trading EST. have purchased Iranian commodities from Sahara Thunder,” it said.

“Iran’s Ministry of Defence continues to destabilise the region and world with its support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, unprecedented attack on Israel, and proliferation of UAVs and other dangerous military hardware to terrorist proxies,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States, in close coordination with our British and Canadian partners, will continue to use all means available to combat those who would finance Iran’s destabilising activities,” he said.

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