January 2, 2015 | Quoted by Colby Adams, Kira Zalan - ACAMS

In Latest Sanctions, U.S. Again Targets Iranians Holding Caribbean Passports

For the fourth time this year, U.S. officials blacklisted an Iranian national using a Caribbean passport while purportedly helping Iran circumvent sanctions. 

The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday that Hossein Zeidi, an Iranian national and dual citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, violated sanctions by converting at least $250 million dollars in foreign funds held by Iran into American currency.

Zeidi partnered with Afghan national Azizullah Qulandary and three other individuals to use Dubai-based export company Belfast General Trading LLC as a front to exchange the funds, which were then hand delivered to Iran, according to the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The agency blacklisted a total of nine individuals and entities Thursday.

Zeidi’s designation comes 10 months after the blacklisting of a Liechtenstein company and its three owners—Pourya Nayebi, Houshang Hosseinpour and Houshang Farsoudeh—for purchasing a “licensed Georgian bank” and other companies to process millions of dollars of transactions for designated Iranian banks.

Hosseinpour, Farsoudeh, and Nayebi—whose February listings describe them only as Iranian nationals—were also granted SKN citizenship in November 2011, December 2011 and November 2012, respectively, according to scanned copies of their passports obtained by ACAMS moneylaundering.com. Each of the individuals’ SKN and Iranian passports use the same photo.

The St. Kitts and Nevis passport program and other pay-for-citizenship initiatives allow Iranians and others to “more easily circumvent sanctions,” according to Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that lobbies for tough countermeasures against Iran.

“The speed by which you can obtain the passport, the very lax residency requirements, which pretty much amount to none, and the relatively affordable cost compared to other programs [makes] St. Kitts very attractive,” said Ottolenghi, who believes that Syrians, Egyptians and others have also used the identification to more easily travel abroad.

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Issues:

Iran Iran Sanctions