The Obama administration shot back Friday at a Greek shipping magnate who made headlines this week for claiming the U.S. Treasury Department had wrongly accused him of helping Iran evade international oil sanctions.
A Treasury Department spokesman said the department stands by the sanctions it leveled on Thursday against Greek businessman Dimitris Cambis, claiming that he used a host of front companies and a fleet of crude-oil tankers flying Panamanian and Liberian flags to sneak Iranian crude into the global market.
Mr. Cambis has denied the the validity of the sanctions in media interviews. He told McClatchy Newspapers on Thursday that U.S. authorities have “a very big imagination,” and were in fact doing dirty work for his rivals.
The U.S. is working off “very bad rumors created by our competitors because we are trying to take market share and they don’t like it.” Mr. Cambis said in a separate interview with the Bloomberg news agency.
Treasury Department John Sullivan dismissed Mr. Cambis’ claims on Friday. “We base our information on a multitude of sources,” Mr. Sullivan told The Washington Times. “We’re extremely confident out the information contained in our press release, which clearly states that [Mr. Cambis’] operations are being done on behalf of the Iranian government.”
The Treasury Department and State Department also contend that the businessman helped channel Iranian government funds through several front companies to purchase eight oil tankers. The Treasury Department said he used “ship-to-ship transfers” to disguise “the Iranian origin of oil transported” on the tankers.
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The development marks the latest move by the Obama administration to lead — and subsequently enforce — a global embargo on Iranian crude oil.
The effort, which began in 2011 amid mounting international tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, has sanctioned companies from Hong Kong to Switzerland in an attempt to block the companies’ access to anyone doing business in U.S. financial markets.
In his interview with McClatchy, Mr. Cambis said he believed U.S. authorities had been “misguided” by his separate involvement in the international natural gas business.
He said that he presently enjoys a concession from Iran to carry 1.06 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. While he said he is unable to exploit for now the concession because of current sanctions on Iran, Mr. Cambis said he expects to put it to use one day.
The Treasury Department declined to comment on Mr. Cambis’ claims.
“I’m not going to comment on other possible business relations that he has,” said Mr. Sullivan. “Our action this week clearly exposed his attempts to evade international sanctions on Iran.”