Shell firms in Russia and Iranian councils – how Venezuela bypassed US oil sanctions

Washington’s attempt to destroy Venezuela’s oil industry has failed thanks to unregistered tankers and phantom companies.

On August 21, the Otoman tanker docked at Jose’s oil terminal on the Venezuelan coast to load 1.82 million barrels of oil, Reuters reported. The ship would certainly have fallen under US sanctions if it existed. Journalists claim that the unique identifier for the Otoman tanker has been assigned to another tanker named Rubyni. This vessel was scrapped off the coast of Bangladesh back in 2018.

It turns out that Otoman is not the only case. Citing sources close to the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, Reuters reports that Caracas is thus evading US punitive measures.

The Otoman tanker is part of a fleet of 30 similar vessels. They are used by a group of previously unknown companies that are the key buyers of Venezuelan oil. In PDVSA’s list of 21 clients, none had previous experience with oil trading. Most of them are registered in Russia, Reuters writes. From April to October, these firms bought over 25 million barrels of Venezuelan oil and fuel – nearly a quarter of Venezuela’s total oil exports.

The idea was borrowed from Iran, according to the material. It was Tehran that began changing the names of ships and the countries in which they are registered, turning off location tracking devices, and using shell companies.

This allowed Venezuela to avoid the collapse of the oil industry. In September, PDVSA exports jumped to over 700,000 barrels per day, the highest since April.


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