Azerbaijan, Baku, May 26 /Trend, T.Konyayeva/
Israeli holding company, accused by the U.S. Department of State of the trade relations with Iran, perhaps had no idea that it is dealing with the Iranian company, said Meir Litvak, professor at the M.Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel-Aviv University.
"The Israeli company denies the charges. They claim that they sold the tanker to a Dubai based company, and had no idea that it was in fact a straw-man Iranian company," Litvak wrote in an e-mail to Trend.
The U.S. Department of State published a list of seven foreign companies that violated international sanctions against Iran, including a shipping company owned by Israeli businessman Ofer Brothers, The Jerusalem Post reported.
According to the U.S. Department of State, the sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group were imposed for alleged business relations with Iran and providing an $8.65 million tanker to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.
The Israeli company has denied information about the sale of any ship to the Islamic Republic.
Litvak said there are two possibilities here: either the Israeli company truly had no idea about the links between the Dubai company, or that they knew, but decided that money and profit were more important than state security.
The U.S. and other Western countries accuse Iran of developing nuclear weapons for military purposes under the guise of peaceful nuclear energy program. So far, the UN Security Council has adopted six resolutions, four of which involve economic and some political sanctions against Iran.
Resolutions approved by the UN Security Council, as well as additional unilateral sanctions adopted by the U.S. Congress and the Foreign Ministers of the European Union, primarily focused on the energy, banking and financial sector of Iran.
The EU restrictions include a ban on the sale of equipment, technologies and services related with energy and oil to Iran. In general, new investments in Iran's energy sector have also been prohibited.
Litvak said the Israeli company says they will appeal the charge and convince the American government that this was all a misunderstanding.
"Again, I have no idea if they speak the truth or not," he said.
Anti-corruption watchdog group Ometz sent a letter to the attorney general asking him to conduct a thorough investigation into the company's Israeli holdings. In its letter, Ometz wrote that in light of the potential harm to the company following the sanctions, and due to the fact that the Ofer Brothers Group controls a considerable portion of Israel's export and foreign trade which might also be affected by the sanctions, it was asking the Attorney General to order a police investigation into all the Ofer family's companies in relation to the alleged offenses pointed out by the US government, which are also violations of Israeli laws.
With the imposition of the State Department sanctions, Tanker Pacific and Ofer Brothers Group are barred from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, from obtaining loans over $10m. from US financial institutions, and from receiving US export licenses.
Established by brothers Sammy and Yuli Ofer in the 1950s, the Ofer Group is today a multi-billion dollar global holdings group. Chaired by 50 percent owner Udi Angel, the conglomerate has interests in aviation, hi-tech, private equity, media and real estate. Its holdings include Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel Chemicals, Oil Refineries Ltd. and Bank Mizrahi. The group also owns 13% of Israel Corporation, one of Israel's largest holding companies.