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Indian Navy's guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam responds as smoke rises from Marlin Luanda, at the location given as Gulf of Aden. Handout via REUTERS

Indian Navy's guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam responds as smoke rises from Marlin Luanda, merchant vessel, after the vessel was struck by a Houthi anti-ship missile, at the location given as Gulf of Aden, in this handout picture released January 27, 2024. @indiannavy via X/Handout via REUTERS

US Sanctions Marshall Islands Shipping Company Over Illicit Shipments for Houthis and Iran

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2711
March 15, 2024

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Department of the Treasury has imposed new sanctions on a Marshall Islands registered shipping company Vishnu Inc. over unauthorized Iranian shipments to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) .

The company’s tanker, the Lady Sofia, has been implicated in shipments that the Treasury Department says support of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Sa’id al-Jamal, a Houthi financial facilitator who is under U.S. counterterrorism sanctions.

The sanctions are the latest targeting the Iranian-linked financial network that has been helping to fund Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 2023.

According to the Treasure Department, the Lady Sofia was involved in a ship-to-ship transfer with another recently sanctioned vessel, the Mehle, on January 31, 2024. The Mehle allegedly concealed the transfer by manipulating its automatic identification system (AIS), also known as “spoofing”. The vessel, under the false identity “AMOR”, concealed its real location and inaccurately reported its position as the South China Sea, while illicitly transferring cargo to the Lady Sofia near Singapore.

The sanctions are enforced under the counterterrorism authority in Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. Sa’id al-Jamal was designated under the same order on June 10, 2021, for materially assisting and providing financial, material, or technological support to the IRGC-QF. The IRGC-QF itself was designated under E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007 for supporting multiple terrorist groups.

Iran’s IRGC-QF has been providing the Houthis with sophisticated arms and training that has enabling them to launch missile and drone attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November 2023.

“We remain committed to disrupting the IRGC-QF and the Houthis’ attempts to evade U.S. sanctions and fund additional terrorist attacks,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States will continue to target the key funding streams that threaten civilians and peaceful international trade.”

The Mehle was identified on January 12, 2024, as property with an interest held by Cielo Maritime Ltd, which was also designated under E.O. 13224 for supporting Sa’id al-Jamal. Vishnu Inc. is now facing similar designation for its support to Sa’id al-Jamal, while the Lady Sofia has been identified as property in which Vishnu Inc. holds an interest.

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