US blacklists two UAE companies
Dubai, May 16, 2013
The US has blacklisted two Dubai-based trading companies, accusing them of helping Iran evade financial sanctions and effectively cutting them off from the US financial system.
The move against Al Hilal Exchange and Al Fida International General Trading is the latest in a series of sanctions Washington has imposed to pressure Tehran to curb its atomic programme, which the US suspects aims to develop weapons. Iran says the programme is for civilian purposes.
Testifying before Congress, two senior Obama administration officials said they would continue to pursue Washington's dual-track policy of negotiating with Iran to rein in its nuclear program, while also imposing sanctions to pressure it.
In a statement, the US Treasury said the two firms had provided financial services to Iran's Bank Mellat, a bank that has itself been blacklisted - or "designated" in US government jargon - for involvement in the Iranian nuclear programme.
"They have been used by Iran in an attempt to maintain access to foreign currency exchange," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
The Treasury's action bars US individuals and companies from dealing with the two firms, effectively cutting them off from the US financial system, and requires the freezing of any assets they may have under US jurisdiction.
It also exposes them to possible criminal penalties, ranging up to 20 years in prison, $500,000 in fines for a corporation and $250,000 for an individual. In addition, civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation may be imposed administratively. - Reuters