The United States government has escalated the enforcement of its sanctions against Iran. The actions by the Treasury, State and Justice Departments were announced in a joint statement from the agencies. The announcements signaled the first significant enforcement of American sanctions directed at Iran and seemed aimed at dispelling a misimpression that economic relations between Iran and the U.S. are improving. Some sanctions were temporarily eased on Iran’s disputed nuclear program while negotiators attempt to reach a permanent agreement, but many restraints on dealing with Iran are still in place.
The U.S. has added eight Chinese companies, a Dubai company and two Dubai-based executives to blacklists because they are accused of evading American restrictions on Iranian transactions for weapons, oil and banking. The announcement from the Treasury stated, “These actions are intended to deter future sanctions evasion and prevent Iran from procuring sensitive technologies while we negotiate a comprehensive solution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensures its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”
The government has also announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei, also known as Karl Lee. Li Fangwei is accused of abetting Iranian weapons procurement and has been charged with several federal offenses, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud and wire fraud, that were linked to eight Chinese companies he owned.
According to the unsealed indictment, Mr. Li had been previously identified as a supplier of parts for Iran’s ballistic missile activities. The eight Chinese companies were described as fronts for Mr. Li to illicitly move millions of dollars through financial institutions based in the United States to conduct business with Iran. Under the sanctions, violators are banned from doing business in the United States, and any properties they hold under American jurisdiction can be seized. There was no immediate reaction from Iran.