After the United States (U.S.) in June sanctioned several oil tankers to curb the Venezuelan oil trade, three firms based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have acted as intermediaries helping Venezuela sidestep those sanctions, an investigative report from Reuters found.
The role the three companies — Muhit Maritime, Issa Shipping FZE, and Asia Charm Ltd — played in transporting Venezuelan oil demonstrates how scarcely known entities have begun replenishing the void left by the U.S.’ sanctions against established companies that facilitate the South American country’s crude exports, Reuters reported. (RELATED: U.S. Sanctions Iranian Ship Captains For Delivering Oil To Venezuela)
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 29, 2020
The three UAE firms’ shipments of Venezuelan crude and fuel hitherto comprise approximately 3.9% of Venezuela’s total oil exports in 2020 through Dec. 18, the report stated. The transported oil is worth about $208.5 million, according to Reuters.
The companies had begun setting up their fleets early last year with ships that have since made voyages primarily related to the Venezuelan crude trade, according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data and the shipping database Equasis, the report stated.
Their activity reveals how the UAE is a hub for companies helping Venezuela dodge American sanctions, the report concluded.
“We are closely tracking these kinds of creative efforts by companies to evade sanctions,” a State Department spokesman told Reuters, referring to the UAE companies. “Those behind shell companies would not be wise to consider themselves shielded from sanctions.”
The spokesman refused to comment on potential future sanctions; however, they added, according to Reuters: “U.S. friends and adversaries alike should know that their companies, front companies, and tankers remain vulnerable to sanctions if they are complicit in activities that facilitate PDVSA’s exports abroad and the Maduro regime’s efforts to evade sanctions.”
The UAE government told Reuters that “a thorough and comprehensive investigation is fully underway into” Muhit Maritime, Issa Shipping, and Asia Charm.
The three companies haven’t responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
Until Reuters discovered these three companies, much of the intermediary-work in 2020 was done by a Moscow-based trading firm, the outlet reported.
According to Reuters, the oil trade helps the Maduro regime in Venezuela that the U.S. seeks to replace. The state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) often sells crude oil at sharp discounts, and the proceeds from the sales go primarily to pay off debt instead of generating cash.