US sanctions over dozen firms, including 3 from India, for ties with Iran

The US slapped on Thursday sanctions on over a dozen companies, individuals and vessels, including three from India, for facilitating illicit trade and UAV transfers on behalf of the Iranian military.

The US Department of Treasury said these companies, individuals and vessels have played a central role in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

While Sahara Thunder has been identified as the main front company that oversees Iran’s commercial activities in support of these efforts, the three India-based companies to have been slapped with sanctions for supporting Sahara Thunder are:-

  • Zen Shipping
  • Port India Private Limited
  • Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited.

Iranian military entity Sahara Thunder relies on a vast shipping network involved in the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) to multiple jurisdictions including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Venezuela, the Treasury said.

“Sahara Thunder has entered into time-charter contracts with India-based Zen Shipping and Port India Private Limited for the Cook Islands-flagged vessel CHEM (IMO 9240914), which is managed and operated by UAE-based Safe Seas Ship Management FZE,” it said.

“Sahara Thunder has used the CHEM to conduct multiple shipments of commodities since 2022.

Iran-based Arsang Safe Trading Co. has provided ship management services in support of several Sahara Thunder-related shipments, including those by the CHEM,” the Treasury said.

According to the Treasury, Iran-based Asia Marine Crown Agency has served as the port agent in Bandar Abbas, Iran supporting several Sahara Thunder shipments.

“India-based Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited and UAE-based company Trans Gulf Agency LLC have worked together to provide ship management services in support of Sahara Thunder.

The UAE and Iran-based Coral Trading EST. have purchased Iranian commodities from Sahara Thunder,” it said.

“Iran’s Ministry of Defence continues to destabilise the region and world with its support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, unprecedented attack on Israel, and proliferation of UAVs and other dangerous military hardware to terrorist proxies,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson.

“The US, in close coordination with our British and Canadian partners, will continue to use all means available to combat those who would finance Iran’s destabilising activities,” he said.