A global network of private companies were blacklisted by the United States on Tuesday for providing revenue to the Iranian government and helping Tehran evade international sanctions on its nuclear program, the U.S. Treasury Department said.
The move targets 37 companies spread across the world, from Iran to Croatia, Germany and South Africa, and is the fourth action the United States has taken in the past week to sanction Iran's government over its atomic program.
The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens and companies from dealing with the firms. Any foreign financial institutions dealing with them risk getting cut off from the U.S. financial system.
The Treasury Department said the companies are governed by the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order, or EIKO - referring to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - and earn tens of billions of dollars in profits.
The companies take advantage of preferential loan rates from Iranian banks and sell and manage real estate holdings, including properties confiscated from Iranians who do not live in the country full-time, Treasury said.
It said the firms have business links to Iran's government but usually have non-Iranian or Iranian expatriate owners to get around restrictions on the government's ability to do business in Europe and other parts of the world.
"While the Iranian government's leadership works to hide billions of dollars in corporate profits earned at the expense of the Iranian people, Treasury will continue exposing and acting against the regime's attempts to evade our sanctions and escape international isolation," Under Secretary of the Treasury David Cohen said in a statement announcing the sanctions.
For Treasury's graphic of the financial network, see.
The United States and other Western powers believe Iran is seeking the ability to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is strictly for power generation and medical purposes.
Sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union halved Iran's oil exports last year, depriving the government of billions of dollars in revenue, increasing already high inflation and hitting the value of the rial currency. But there is little evidence they have slowed the nuclear program.
"Each passing month shows important results obtained through sanctions. Yet, the Iranian regime is still able to fund nuclear enrichment in ways that bear no relationship to a peaceful program," Senator Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Banking committee examining the sanctions, said during a hearing.
China and Russia are expected this week to join four Western powers in voicing deep concerns about Iran's atomic activities, and pressing it to cooperate with a stalled inquiry by the U.N. nuclear agency.