Exclusive: U.S. puts sanctions on Turkish businessman, citing links to Iran’s Quds Force

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on prominent Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan and his network of companies, accusing him of acting on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to facilitate oil sales and money laundering. .

The US actions come as relations between the two countries have soured over various issues, including disagreements over Syria policy and Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defense systems.

In a statement first reported by Reuters, the Treasury said Ayan’s companies had entered into international sales contracts for Iranian oil, arranged shipments, helped launder the proceeds, and identified the origin of Iran’s oil on behalf of the U.N. They have hidden the holy place of Iran. .

This organization announced: Ayaan has concluded commercial contracts for the sale of Iranian oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars to buyers.

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Ayan’s son Bahadin Ayan, his associate Kasim Oztas and two other Turkish nationals involved in his business network have also been designated, along with 26 companies including his ASB Group, a Gibraltar-based holding company and a ship.

“We will defend our legal rights against everyone,” Sitaki Ayan said in an emailed response to Reuters’ request for comment.

He added: He has been involved in two commercial activities with Iran. These were the trade in oil and oil products, which ended with sanctions in 2010, and the sale of Iranian electricity to Turkey from 2009 to 2015, which he withdrew due to payment problems.

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He said: “I have never worked with anyone except official Iranian government institutions in any period of my life.

Bahadin, the son of Ayan and Oztas, was not immediately available for comment. ASB Ayan Group and the Turkish Communications Authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Treasury Department’s action freezes any U.S. assets of those designated and generally prohibits Americans from doing business with them. Individuals who engage in certain transactions with designated individuals are also subject to sanctions.

Washington recently warned Turkey against a military offensive in northern Syria after Ankara said it was preparing a possible ground offensive against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which it considers terrorists, but the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). constitute SDF). .

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Washington continues to impose broad sanctions on Iran and is looking for ways to increase pressure as efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran have stalled.

President Joe Biden sought to negotiate Iran’s return to the nuclear deal after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of it in 2018.

The 2015 agreement limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activities to make it more difficult for Tehran to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. Iran denies the desire to acquire nuclear weapons.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Ezagi Erkoyoun and Darren Butler. Edited by Howard Goller and Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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