US sanctions billion-dollar oil trafficking network allegedly financing Iran’s Guards.

Illustrative. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboat moves in the Persian Gulf while an oil tanker is seen in background, July 2, 2012.

The US Department of Justice announces terrorism and sanctions-evasion charges and seizures linked to a billion-dollar oil trafficking network that it says finances Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“The Department of Justice’s actions are critical to stemming the flow of money that Iran uses to engage in activities that threaten people inside the United States, as well as our interests across the world,” a senior Justice Department official tells reporters in a call before the unsealing of the charges in two federal courts.

The Justice Department seized more than $108 million that it says China Oil & Petroleum Company Limited, which it calls an IRGC front company, attempted to launder through accounts at US financial institutions. The department says more than 500,000 barrels of Iran’s sanctioned oil were also seized.

Seven defendants, including Morteza Rostam Ghasemi, who is the son of an IRGC commander and Iranian oil minister, and an Iranian shipping official are charged in connection with those seizures.

Iran’s crude exports and oil output hit new highs in 2023 despite US sanctions. In January, China’s oil trade with Iran stalled as Tehran withheld shipments and demanded higher prices from its top client, tightening cheap supply for the world’s biggest crude importer. Iranian oil makes up some 10% of China’s crude imports.

“The cases that we’re announcing are targeting players on both sides, both the supply and demand side” of sanctioned Iranian oil,” the Justice Department official says.