Iranian businessman denies EU sanctions-busting accusation

Humeyra Pamuk
Reuters Middle East

* New EU sanctions came into force on Saturday

* Businessman named as sanction breaker denies the claim

* Iran under increasing Western pressure over nuclear work

DUBAI, Dec 23 (Reuters) - An Iranian businessman named by

the European Union for breaching sanctions against Iran denied

any wrongdoing on Sunday, saying his bank and other companies

did not work for the Iranian government.

"This is a mistake," Babak Zanjani told Reuters, speaking in

his office in a high-rise tower in a financial district of Dubai

a day after the sanctions came into force.

Neither his Malaysia-based First Islamic Bank nor his more

than 60 other companies had done anything wrong, he said.

In the latest sanctions, agreed by the EU in October and put

into effect on Saturday, Zanjani was subjected

to "restrictive measures", forbidding EU companies or

individuals doing Iran-related business with him.

The sanctions, aimed at forcing Iran to curb its nuclear

activities, include bans on financial transactions, sales to

Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian

natural gas. The curbs are in addition to earlier bans,

including on the OPEC producer's oil.

The new EU sanctions describe Zanjani as "a key facilitator

for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil related money" and

accuses First Islamic Bank of being used to channel Iranian

oil-related payments.

Zanjani said the complex nature of his companies'

transactions, involving large sums, might have misled EU


"I carry an Iranian passport and I send quite a lot of money

to my companies all around the world. They must have thought we

are up to something," he said.

Zanjani said there were 64 or 65 companies in his group

operating in a range of industries such as cosmetics, food, oil

and aviation. The website of his Sorinet Group shows at least a

dozen company names, mostly based in the UAE, with some in


He denied that his oil company, International Safe Oil, also

added to the EU's list on Saturday, had any business with Iran's

oil industry.

"I'd like them to show me how I work for Iran. For example

they say we have ties with Iran's oil industry. I have an oil

company but it has no links with Iran. We do business in Iraq,"

Zanjani said.

"I am an Iranian, if they [the Iranian government] had asked

for such a help I could have, but they never did, I only do my

private business."

He said that so far he had not received any negative

reactions to the listing from his customers.

"We don't get financial support from the Iranian government.

But this is bad for reputation," he said.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful but the

European Union and the United States suspect it of pursuing

weapons capability and hope the sanctions will restrict Iran's

ability to advance the technology and force it to make

concessions at negotiations.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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