Tue | Apr 7, 2020

US sanctions Russian oil trading firm for role in Venezuela

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 5:07 PM
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, February 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration announced sanctions Tuesday on a Russian state-controlled brokerage that has helped the Venezuelan government skirt an American oil embargo and enabled President Nicolas Maduro to keep his grip on power in the South American country.

Administration officials said Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president, Didier Casimiro, would be added to a financial blacklist in a move that is expected to largely freeze him and the company out of the global financial system.

The action is an unusually aggressive move against a company linked to the Russian state and a substantial escalation of a US-led campaign that has failed to oust Maduro from power.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Rosneft Trading is the primary broker for the sale and transportation of Venezuelan crude oil, which has been under sweeping US sanctions since January 2019 as part of the pressure campaign against Maduro.

“Rosneft Trading has propped up the dictatorial Maduro, enabling his repression of the Venezuelan people,” he said in announcing the sanctions.

Rosneft Trading, based in Switzerland, was created in 2011 to facilitate trades on behalf of the parent company, which has been under US sanctions since 2014, said Elliott Abrams, the special US envoy for Venezuela.

The brokerage has helped arrange sales of Venezuelan crude by deceiving customers, mostly in Asia, about the source of the oil with such tactics as changing the name of the tanker, Abrams said.

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