U.S. Treasury Sanctions Two Captains for Smuggling Iranian Oil

NITC tanker
Courtesy National Iranian Tanker Company

Published Jun 10, 2024 8:22 PM by The Maritime Executive


In a rare move targeting mariners, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has added two captains to its list of people who have been blacklisted for helping move Iranian-linked oil. It is a rare instance of a sanctions designation that targets licensed officers rather than shipowners or charterers. 

The first of the two officers, Capt. Vivek Ashok Pandey, has allegedly served as the master of the sanctioned tanker Olympics (ex name Lady Sophia). According to the Treasury, the Olympics operates on behalf of the Sa’id al-Jamal network, a Houthi-run covert shipping enterprise that smuggles oil for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The agency said that the tanker is operating in the East China Sea and using forged paperwork that falsely describes her cargo as "Malaysian," a common cover for Iranian oil shipments bound for China. 

Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control also blacklisted Capt. Sandeep Singh Choudhary, master of the tanker La Pearl (also known as Elite). The vessel has just delivered a sanctioned cargo and is currently located off the coast of China, according to the agency. Treasury believes that the La Pearl is owned by sanctioned Saone Shipping Corporation; Saone allegedly supports the oil-smuggling interests of an Iranian government front company, Sepehr Energy Jahan Nama Pars Company (SEJ). 

In the same announcement, Treasury also imposed sanctions on a range of oil-trading and transport entities connected to the Sa’id al-Jamal network. These newly-blacklisted individuals and companies include:

  • Sa'id al-Jamal's nephew, Abdallah, who allegedly handles money-laundering for the network
  • Shark International Shipping and its managing director, John Britto Aruldhas, for allegedly supplying the network with forged oil shipping documents on behalf of the Houthis
  • Rayyan Shipping Private Ltd., manager and technical operator of the Olympics

Treasury also sanctioned Hong Kong-based Lainey Shipping Ltd., Lainey's tanker Janet, Panama-based Louis Marine Shipholding, and Louis Marine's tanker Bella 1. The firms and their vessels allegedly carried sanctioned Iranian cargoes for Concepto Screen SAL Off-Shore, a front company for the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah.