- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The State Department accused China on Tuesday of helping an Iranian airline smuggle gold out of Venezuela and ship U.N.-restricted missile and nuclear items into Iran, saying a Shanghai-based company has facilitated the airline’s nefarious operations.

“The People’s Republic of China is one of the rapidly dwindling number of countries that welcomes Mahan Air, which ferries weapons and terrorists around the world for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“Such cooperation has consequences,” Mr. Pompeo said, announcing that the State and Treasury Departments have moved to blacklist “Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited” from U.S. banking markets and will level sanctions against any other companies in the world found to be doing business with the Chinese firm.

Shanghai Saint Logistics “provides general sales agent services” for the Iranian Mahan Air, the secretary of state said.

The airline has been in the U.S. intelligence community’s crosshairs since the Obama-era. U.S. officials first sanctioned it back in 2011 on accusations it was providing material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ special Qods Force.

The Trump administration re-upped the sanctions last year, claiming to have intelligence indicating that Mahan — according to Mr. Pompeo’s statement Tuesday — was involved in “shipping United Nations-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran.”

The statement went on to claim: “More recently, the Iranian regime turned to Mahan Air to facilitate shipments to Venezuela to support the illegitimate former Maduro regime and its desperate attempts to boost energy production, which had fallen due to its own gross mismanagement.”

“It is equally troubling that Mahan Air appears to be carrying gold from Venezuela’s vaults back to Iran, depriving the Venezuelan people of resources needed to rebuild their economy,” Mr. Pompeo said. “As always, authoritarian regimes are more interested in their own survival than the needs of their people.”

The secretary of state added that the United States is “pleased that over the last two years, governments and companies across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have wisely severed ties with Mahan Air.”

“This designation serves as another reminder that companies still providing services for Mahan Air — in the PRC or anywhere else — risk potential U.S. sanctions,” he said.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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