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Filed under: Latest News — admin     2:27 pm June 22, 2011

Iran’s largest shipping company used a vast network of shell companies to move $60 million through New York bank accounts over the past three years in violation of U.S. trade sanctions, prosecutors said on Monday.

In a 317-count indictment, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. alleged that Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, or Irisl, and its affiliates used aliases in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. to trick banks into processing wire transfers that normally would have been blocked or seized.

“They would create new companies—corporate alter egos—to take the place of the sanctioned companies in international transactions,” Mr. Vance said. The international shipping industry conducts business primarily in U.S. currency and therefore firms involved in international shipping must have access to the U.S. financial system, he said.

Irisl didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The U.S. government in recent years has focused on Irisl. It first became subject to U.S. sanctions in September 2008 by the Treasury Department, which said Irisl played a role in supporting Tehran’s nuclear and broader military programs.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has historically pursued cases internationally, using New York’s status as one of the financial capitals of the world as a basis for bringing such cases. A tip about a year ago led to the unraveling of a vast network of shell companies involving Irisil, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In a coordinated announcement on Monday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department named an additional 10 entities and three individuals as being affiliated with Irisl. Since 2008, Treasury officials have designated a total of 121 companies and individuals affiliated with Irisl.

Heightened surveillance of Irisl’s fleet has also led to the seizure of thousands of tons of arms that U.S. and U.N. officials say they believe were headed to Iran’s allies in Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories. Adam Szubin, OFAC’s director, said on Monday that Irisl would go so far as to repeatedly change the names of its ships and repaint them in order to evade sanctions.

Source : Wall Street Journal

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