Private firms tout Iran oil cheap to beat sanctions

Private firms tout Iran oil cheap to beat sanctions

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 21 / Trend /

Obscure private firms offer Iranian crude oil at steep discounts to European oil traders as Tehran seeks ways to restore oil export flows hit by Western sanctions, Reuters reported.

Traders who buy crude for European refineries say they are are getting daily calls offering Iranian crude, sometimes accompanied by the promise of fake paperwork to disguise it as oil from a different origin.

Iranian oil initially destined for Turkey is now building up in at the Egyptian Mediterranean transit port of Sidi Kerir and is being offered in the European oil market by a growing number of small firms.

Not all sellers of the crude are based outside Europe. One offer seen by Reuters was posted on the online marketplace Alibaba by a firm based in Italy.

Salama Import and Export listed itself as a provider of both light and heavy Iranian crude grades with capacity to supply 1.2 million barrels per month for loading from Sidi Kerir.

The advertisement for May delivery included a detailed a pricing formula to be effected in Turkish Lira or Euros and was taken down from the website a few hours after a Reuters reporter contacted the general manager, Saef Salama, by phone.

"The advertising is old," Salama said. "If you want Iranian oil, you have to contact the Iranian oil ministry."

The company's registered address, on the outskirts of Rome, displayed a doorbell with the firm's name written in hand.

The low-rise block, part of a modest but tidy new development, appeared mainly residential, with Italian and foreign family names listed on the intercom.

Traders say up to seven million barrels of Iranian crude, or seven medium-size shipments worth around $700 million, is stuck in Egypt and being offered cheaply for immediate loading.

Some sellers offer to help sidestep sanctions or unwanted publicity by providing an Iraqi certificate of origin and fictional pricing details to match.

The head of one crude oil desk said he received around three phone calls a day with offers of steeply discounted crude.

The crude was also being offered in part cargoes, by-passing the problem of certification altogether, he said.

Tankers could sail into Egypt carrying 75 pct full of genuine Iraqi crude, then fill the rest up with Iranian oil. The grades would be similar enough for the cargo to pass any test.

The Iranian oil ministry did not answer calls to its public relations office.

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