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Aiming at Venezuela, U.S. Accidentally Sanctions Small Business Owners

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Published Apr 8, 2021 9:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

When the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Italian national Alessandro Bazzoni for trading in Venezuelan crude oil in January, it also blacklisted his businesses - or at least, businesses that belonged to people with the same name. 

A different Alessandro Bazzoni, the owner of a small graphic design and advertising company in Sardinia, has had his company effectively shuttered and his bank account permanently closed because Treasury explicitly listed his firm - SeriGraphicLab di Bazzoni Alessandro - as a sanctioned entity. His company creates visual promotions for local restaurants, gyms and other small businesses, and it does not generally trade in crude oil.

Treasury also blacklisted AMG S.A.S. di Alessandro Bazzoni & Co., owned by the proprietor of Verona-based Dolce Gusto Ristorante Pizzeria - a local establishment better known for its good pizza and friendly service than for bituminous Venezuelan blends.

The administration in Washington has changed since these sanctions were implemented. On March 31, Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control quietly removed the restaurateur and the print shop from its blacklist. A different Alessandro Bazzoni - an Italian-born resident of Lugano, Switzerland - still remains listed as an individual. A Treasury official told Reuters that it was aware that there had been a mixup. 

Bazzoni - the Sardinian graphic designer - says that even though his company has been removed from the blacklist, he has not been able to get his bank account restored. Unable to process payments, SeriGraphicLab remains effectively shuttered. “It was a momentous error on their part, and one that is having serious implications as it is preventing me from working,” he told The Guardian. 

Bazzoni told the paper that he intends to sue the U.S. government for damages and would appreciate an apology for the error.