The United States on Thursday (December 8) blacklisted a sanctions evasion network that has facilitated the sale of oil for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and Lebanese Hizbullah.
The move came as part of a fresh wave of international sanctions, with European diplomats on Friday revealing the European Union (EU) is preparing to impose more sanctions on Iran on Monday, including for drone supplies to Russia.
The United Kingdom also announced sanctions on officials in Iran, as part of wide-ranging sanctions against 30 targets worldwide.
The US sanctions, which follow the November 17 designation of 13 petrochemical companies for facilitating illicit trade with Iran, target a trading network led by Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan that handled oil from the IRGC.
In partnership with senior IRGC-QF officials, Ayan's network facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Iranian oil to China and Russia, the US State and Treasury departments said in separate statements.
"Ayan's companies have established international sales contracts for Iranian oil with foreign purchasers, arranged shipments of oil, and helped launder the proceeds," the Treasury said.
This was done by obscuring the oil's Iranian origin and the IRGC-QF's interest in the sales, it said.
The Treasury said its actions "supplement" the May 25 designation of an international oil smuggling and money laundering network led by IRGC-QF officials and supported by the Russian government.
The network, supported by the Russian government and state-run economic organisations, had facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Iranian oil to profit the IRGC-QF and Lebanese Hizbullah.
"Together, these networks provided important revenue sources for Iran and the IRGC-QF," the Treasury said in its Thursday announcement.
Blocking IRGC-QF revenue stream
The latest action demonstrates the ongoing US commitment "to deny the IRGC-QF its revenue streams and to target those who abuse the international financial system in support of the group", said Treasury official Brian Nelson.
"The United States will continue to strictly enforce sanctions on the IRGC's illicit oil sales trade," he said.
Ayan, his son, Bahaddin Ayan, a top lieutenant, Kasim Oztas, and IRGC associate Mustafa Omer Kaptan were blacklisted Thursday, along with 26 entities, all connected to the sanctions evasion operations.
One vessel was identified as blocked property.
Ayan has helped the IRGC by arranging the sale and shipment of oil it controls and helping to move the proceeds from the sales to the IRGC, the Treasury said.
He used the network of his Gibraltar-registered ASB Group of Companies to hide the origins of the oil and the destination of the payments, it said.
Ayan also used one of his companies to buy a Panamanian-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker for the IRGC, according to the Treasury.
EU to expand sanctions on Iran
The new EU measures will include sanctions on around eight individuals and organisations involved in the manufacture and delivery of drones Moscow has used in the war on Ukraine, diplomats said.
The sanctions are expected to be formally signed off by foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday, AFP reported.
The EU already has imposed sanctions on eight officials and organisations, including the head of the IRGC and two drone makers, over the arms supplies to Russia.
The Kremlin's forces have used Iranian drones as a key weapon to attack Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
The EU is looking under a separate sanctions package to stop the supply of drone engines from the bloc to Russia and Iran in a bid to curb Moscow's war machine.
Britain on Friday announced wide-ranging sanctions against 30 targets worldwide, which include 10 people connected to Iran's judicial and prison systems, AFP reported.
It is "the most that the UK has ever brought together in one package", the foreign ministry said.
Among them are two former directors of the notorious Evin prison in Tehran: Ali Chaharmahali and Gholamreza Ziaei.
Also blacklisted are five people from Russia and Russian-held Crimea amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has attracted successive waves of UK sanctions against Moscow.