U.S. imposes sanctions on Turkish businessman over doing business with Iran's Quds Force
The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on prominent Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan and his network of companies, accusing him of facilitating oil sales and money laundering on behalf of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.)
Ayan's companies have established international sales contracts for Iranian oil, arranged shipments and helped launder the proceeds and obscured the origin of the Iranian oil on behalf of Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, a statement by the US Department of the Treasury said.
"Ayan has established business contracts to sell Iranian oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars to buyers," in China, the United Arab Emirates and Europe, the statement said, adding that he then funneled the proceeds back to the Quds Force.
Ayan's son Bahaddin Ayan, his associate Kasim Oztas and two other Turkish citizens involved in his business network are also designated in the decision, along with 26 companies including his ASB Group of Companies, a Gibraltar-based holding company and a vessel.
Turkey’s Main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu back in 2017 mentioned Ayan’s name in a case known in Turkey as the "Isle of Man incident” and accused President Tayyip Erdogan of doing offshore businesses with him.
In 2014, Ayan’s name was also on the headlines across Turkey after the release of secretly recorded calls, purportedly between the then Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his son Bilal, including one in which Erdogan said they should demand more money from a “Mr. Sıtkı” than the $10 million they’d been offered. The Turkish leader dismissed the call as an “immoral montage,” implying it was fake, but the recording helped trigger a wave of protests, scrutiny of his ties to Ayan and even calls for his resignation.
The Treasury action freezes any U.S. assets of those designated and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with those designated also risk sanctions.
The U.S. measures come at a time when the United States and Turkey are strained over a host of issues, including disagreement over Syria policy.
Most recently, Washington has warned Turkey to refrain from carrying out a military incursion into northern Syria after Ankara said it was preparing a possible ground invasion against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia that it views as terrorists but who make up the bulk of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).