Three Iranians with St.Kitts-Nevis Passports at center of U.S. Department of Treasury investigations
Three Iranians with St.Kitts-Nevis passports have been identified by the US Department of Treasury as the center pieces of an elaborate Iranian network of sanctions’ evaders that includes European Oil Traders and Swiss companies
The Iranians Mr. Pourya Nayebi and his associates Houshang Hosseinpour and Houshang Farsoudeh are all citizens of St.Kitts-Nevis after obtaining passports of that country. It is unclear whether the passports are of diplomatic issue as was the case with Alireza Moghdham, another Iranian, who was stopped at the Canadian border with a $1 million St.Kitts-Nevis diplomatic passport last year. The Moghadham diplomatic passport fiasco created such a fervor in Canadian and International immigration circles that St.Kitts-Nevis was forced to suspend diplomatic passport sales to Iranians and Afghans and the Canadian authorities suspended their Economic Citizenship programme just months after the Moghdham St.Kitts-Nevis Diplomat passport fall out.
Mr Nayebi and his associates were implicated by the US Treasury Department of facilitating sanctions’ evasion by incorporating a company in Geneva, in December 2010, through the good services of a Swiss-Iranian dual national, who, three months later, closed the company in Geneva and moved it to Stadel, in the Zurich Canton, before resigning his post.
The company has no apparent Iranian connection – Mr. Nayebi, the current president of the company, lives in Dubai. The company is managed by a fiduciary agent and the registry says nothing of the shareholders’ identity. But the US Treasury thought otherwise and explained that EOT SA was set up “to facilitate deceptive transactions for or on behalf of persons subject to U.S. sanctions concerning Iran.”
Mr Nayebi and his associates along with scores of other Iranian businessmen have been using the haven of Switzerland which is not a part of the EU to set up businesses to avoid International sanctions against Iran. The Iranians have also, through the purchase of St.Kitts –Nevis passports , found a way to travel throughout the EU and do business despite the sanctions against Iran and many of their major corporations in particular Oil and Energy conglomerates.
The Iranians have been essentially using Switzerlands non EU status and St.Kitts-Nevis passports to avoid the sanctions imposed by the US and EU on Iran and Iranian businesses.
The U.S. Treasury Department last month stated that it placed sanctions on an array of people and entities across the globe including Nayebi, for allegedly evading sanctions on Iran, aiding Tehran’s nuclear program and supporting terrorism, marking the first designations since an interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect a few months ago.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Top Obama administration officials said in Capitol Hill testimony that the U.S. would continue to enforce its sanctions against Iran during the six-month agreement, which gave Tehran some sanctions relief in exchange for halting its nuclear program amid talks for a longer-term deal.
“The United States has made clear that as it implements the Joint Plan of Action, contingent on Iran satisfying its own commitments, the overwhelming majority of sanctions remain in effect and will continue to be vigorously enforced,” said David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.
“Publicly identifying such persons will also allow U.S. persons to avoid unwittingly engaging in transactions with identified foreign persons that may expose U.S. persons to the risk of sanctions violations,” the FAQ page says.
The US Treasury named Nayebi, an alleged holder of a St.Kitts-Nevis Diplomatic passport along with associates Houshang Hosseinpour; and Houshang Farsoudeh — and eight companies they control — to the new sanctions-evader list. They had established companies and financial institutions in multiple countries, and used the companies to facilitate transactions on behalf of people under U.S. sanctions on Iran, Treasury alleged.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Messrs. Nayebi, Hosseinpour and Farsoudeh acquired majority shares in a Georgian bank through a Liechtenstein-based foundation they control, Treasury alleged. Then they used the Georgian bank to facilitate transactions worth the equivalent of tens of millions of U.S. dollars for multiple blacklisted Iranian banks, Treasury alleged. A senior Treasury official said to reporters on a conference call that the bank they used wasn’t identified as a sanctions evader because Georgian authorities worked with the U.S. to “evict” the three individuals from the bank, and to “put the bank on track into more legitimate hands.”
The Treasury official said they were “very active and ingenious” but was “pretty optimistic” that actions, along with the activity of others around the world, “pretty much put them out of business.”
The Wall Street Journal further reported on Messrs. Nayebi, Hosseinpour and Farsoudeh last June, saying at the time their activity “raised alarms in in Washington and Europe” due to worries about potential links to the Iranian government.
In addition, Treasury placed sanctions on a series of companies and three individuals for their connections to procurement for Iran’s nuclear program.
Treasury targeted Turkish citizen Ali Canko and the Iran-based Tiva Sanat Group after Mr. Canko allegedly assisted an attempt to procure and reverse-engineer a weapons-capable fast boat for the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, Treasury said.
Houshang Hosseinpour, Pourya Nayebi and Houshang Farsoudeh all of whom obtained St.Kitts-Nevis passports in 2011, have jointly established one of Georgia’s(Former Soviet State) first private airlines, FlyGeorgia; They have gained control of a bank, JSC InvestBank; and opened a string of other ventures.
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