Calls grow for probe into claims Israeli company traded with Iran

Israel Materials 30 May 2011 14:32 (UTC +04:00)

Accusations that an Israeli company indirectly traded with Iran have stirred outrage in the Jewish state, with a senior official saying the government would not intervene and lawmakers calling for an investigation and police enquiry, DPA reported.

The Israeli Ofer Brothers Group, and its subsidiary Tanker Pacific were among the seven companies the US State Department said last week would face sanctions for dealing with Iran.

The State Department said the two were being sanctioned for their September 2010 role in the sale of a tanker to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which the US and EU have targeted for its role in supporting Iran's nuclear programme.

Israel Media since reported that at least seven Tanker Pacific vessels have docked in Iran between 2004 and 2007.

A "senior government official" meanwhile told Israel Radio Monday that Israel would not approach the US on behalf of the Ofer Brothers. He said Israel coud not intervene, since it was the strongest voice calling for sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear programme.

Right-wing Lawmaker Ariyeh Eldad told an Israel Radio talk show that a police investigation into the affair was necessary, as the only way to discover the exact truth.

On Sunday a government-quality watchdog called on both the attorney-general and the state comptroller to launch investigations into all Israeli-based companies doing business with Iran.

The Ofer Brothers have responded to the claims by saying that they have never knowingly done business with an Iranian company.

However, the Yediot Ahranot daily quoted "sources close to the Ofer group" as saying that the docking of tankers in Iran to purchase crude oil was "was with the approval and authority of official echelons in Israel."

The office of Prime Minister Benjamion Netanyahu denied this claim, with Israel Army Radio quoting unnamed bureau officials Monday as stating that "no one authorised the Ofer family top dock in Iran."

On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee is slated to discuss Israeli trade with Iran, and in particular the affair of the Ofer Brothers.

The Ofer Brothers Group is one of Israel's largest privately-owned economic groups. It owns and operates a large maritime fleet, and is also active in real estate, banking, and high tech.