The U.S. sanctioned Turkish energy magnate Sitki Ayan, a confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accusing the businessman of helping Iran undertake illicit oil sales to finance the country’s terror proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Thursday’s announcement of the sanctions came just hours after POLITICO published an investigation into Ayan’s dealings with Iran’s Quds Force, a paramilitary affiliate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for its external operations.
The U.S. Treasury, which oversees the implementation of American sanctions, said in a statement that Ayan had led “a sanctions-evasion network” that had facilitated the sale of “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of oil” for the Quds Force.
“Ayan’s companies have established international sales contracts for Iranian oil with foreign purchasers, arranged shipments of oil, and helped launder the proceeds, obscuring the oil’s Iranian origin and the [Quds Force’s] interest in the sales,” the Treasury said.
In May, the U.S. slapped sanctions on a number of front companies and others involved in Ayan’s network, but left the businessman untouched, possibly due to his close relationship with Erdoğan, an important U.S. partner in the Middle East and beyond.
In addition to Ayan and his energy conglomerate, the ASB Group, the Treasury sanctioned his son Bahaddin, who works for the company, and Kasim Oztas, a senior executive there.
Those sanctioned will have their U.S. assets frozen and Americans are barred from doing business with them. Non-Americans dealing with the parties may also face penalties, a risk that typically makes it difficult for those on the sanctions list to continue their business.
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