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WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday (Mar 9) imposed sanctions on 39 entities, mostly operating in Hong Kong and the UAE, that it said were facilitating Iran’s access to the global financial system, describing them as a “shadow banking” network that generates tens of billions of dollars annually.

The US Treasury Department said those targeted had granted companies previously slapped with Iran-related sanctions, such as Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co (PGPICC) and Triliance Petrochemical Co Ltd, access to the international financial system and helped them hide their trade with foreign customers. 

“Iran cultivates complex sanctions evasion networks where foreign buyers, exchange houses, and dozens of front companies cooperatively help sanctioned Iranian companies to continue to trade,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.

He said the new measures showed the US commitment to enforcing sanctions and its “ability to disrupt Iran’s foreign financial networks, which it uses to launder funds”.

Efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal have stalled and ties between the Islamic Republic and the West are increasingly strained as Iranians keep up anti-government protests.

Washington has increasingly targeted Chinese companies over the export of Iran’s petrochemicals as the prospects of reviving the nuclear pact have dimmed.

The administration of former US President Donald Trump in January 2020 had blacklisted Hong Kong-based Triliance and three other petrochemical and petroleum companies that the Treasury said collectively transferred the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of exports from the National Iranian Oil Company.

Entities blacklisted by the Treasury on Thursday include Albahr Alaahmar Energy, FZE, Al Kashaf Petroleum and Petrochemical Trading LLC, and Qi Group Limited for having provided financial, material or technological support to PCPICC.

The Treasury also designated Glotreasure Company Limited for supporting Triliance.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.