MIDDLE EAST

US sanctions financial network aiding Iran's military

The U.S. issued sanctions Tuesday on a network of over two dozen companies and individuals alleged to facilitate more than $1 billion in transfers to Iran's military, including the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The network was also critical in helping Iran's defense ministry procure millions of dollars worth of vehicles, the Treasury Department said in announcing the penalties.

"We are targeting a vast network of front companies and individuals located in Iran, Turkey, and the UAE to disrupt a scheme the Iranian regime has used to illicitly move more than a billion dollars in funds," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Among those blacklisted are Iran-based Ansar Bank, which the Treasury said is controlled by the IRGC and has been used to establish a front company scheme that spanned Iran, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Ayatollah Ebrahimi, whom the Treasury said is the bank's managing director, was also blacklisted.

Part of the scheme described by the U.S. included the conversion of Iranian rials into over a billion U.S. dollars and euros through Ansar's exchange house.

Alireza Atabaki, the exchange's managing director, was also hit with sanctions.

The new penalties come amid the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign aimed at bringing Iran to the negotiating table after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a multinational accord world powers struck with Iran to curtail its nuclear program.

U.S. persons are generally prohibited from doing business with those individuals and entities who were sanctioned Tuesday. Any property belonging to those individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction has been frozen.

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