US Department of the Treasury (Photo Credit: Brian Snyder via Reuters)
The US Department of the Treasury issued a new batch of sanctions on 8 December, targeting an influential Turkish businessman affiliated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his alleged economic ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.
According to the statement, businessman Sitki Ayan and the companies under his control are accused of operating an evasion network that facilitated the sale of US-sanctioned Iranian oil and money laundering for the IRGC and Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
“Ayan entered into commercial contracts for the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Iranian oil to buyers [in China, UAE, and Europe],” added the statement.
Ayan is accused of using his Gibraltar-based ASB group of companies and its associated subsidiary, Baslam Nakliyat Ye Dis Ticaret Ltd, on behalf of Iran to supply buyers, mostly China and Russia, with Iranian oil.
Additionally, the US sanctioned Ayan’s son, Bahaddin, along with his partner Kasim Oztas, and other Turkish nationals for all operating on behalf of Sitki in this scheme to “funnel money to Iran.”
“Today’s action complements Treasury’s May designations and demonstrates the United States’ ongoing commitment to deny the IRGC-QF its revenue streams,” stated Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson.
He added that the US would continue to enforce sanctions on the IRGC’s foreign oil trade and sanction any entity involved in helping Iran evade US restrictions.
As a result, Ayan’s assets in the US and EU will be frozen and eventually confiscated. US businessmen are barred from cooperating with these companies, or risk being sanctioned.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has shown a public interest in US-sanctioned Russian gas and oil. On 9 December, Turkiye requested a 25 percent discount on its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Russia.
According to Erdogan, Turkiye’s national energy bill could reach $100 billion this year, after Russia supplied almost half of Turkiye’s LNG imports.
Due to this increase, Erdogan is seeking a discount, as Russian oil exports to Turkiye doubled to over 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, compared to last year’s mere 98,000 bpd.