By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts -- Three Iranians with St Kitts and Nevis passports have been identified by the US Department of Treasury as part of an elaborate Iranian network of sanctions evaders, Times Caribbean reported.
The Iranians, Pourya Nayebi and his associates Houshang Hosseinpour and Houshang Farsoudeh, are all reported to be citizens of St Kitts and Nevis after obtaining passports through the country’s citizenship by investment programme, which came under international scrutiny in November last year, when Alizeera Moghadhan, another Iranian national, reportedly told officials in Canada that he paid $1 million for a St Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport.
In this latest incident, it is not known if the passports in question are also diplomatic passports.
Earlier this month, St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas reveled that the country’s citizenship by investment programme, through the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDP), continues to rake in more than $100 million annually. In essence, St Kitts and Nevis passports are exchanged for investment funds that are used in major developmental projects in the country.
In a press statement last week, Min Zhu, deputy managing director and acting chair of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that the bulk of revenues from the citizenship by investment programme should be saved to build buffers, facilitate a faster decline in debt, and finance productive capital projects.
The US Treasury Department stated last month that it placed sanctions on an array of people and entities across the globe, including Nayebi, for allegedly evading sanctions on Iran, aiding Tehran’s nuclear program and supporting terrorism, marking the first designations since an interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect a few months ago.
The Wall Street Journal reported that top Obama administration officials said in Capitol Hill testimony that the US would continue to enforce its sanctions against Iran during the six-month agreement, which gave Tehran some sanctions relief in exchange for halting its nuclear program amid talks for a longer-term deal.
“The United States has made clear that as it implements the Joint Plan of Action, contingent on Iran satisfying its own commitments, the overwhelming majority of sanctions remain in effect and will continue to be vigorously enforced,” said David Cohen, undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.
Placement on the list is considered “identification,” not “designation,” because, according to the Treasury Department website, the action does not block any assets, but Americans cannot do business with anyone on the new list without authorisation from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“Publicly identifying such persons will also allow US persons to avoid unwittingly engaging in transactions with identified foreign persons that may expose US persons to the risk of sanctions violations,” the Treasury Department website says.