Little-known shipping companies registered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been shipping Venezuelan crude oil in breach of the U.S. sanctions on Nicolas Maduro’s regime, Reuters says in a special report on Tuesday.
The companies Muhit Maritime, Issa Shipping FZE, and Asia Charm Ltd, all registered in two free zones in the UAE, have transported nearly 4 percent of Venezuela’s total crude oil and fuel exports so far this year, according to Reuters estimates based on internal shipping documents of Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA, tanker tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon, and shipping database Equasis.
Authorities in the free trade zones in the UAE, one of the key U.S. allies in the Middle East, told Reuters they were not aware of the scheme or of the activities of the UAE-based companies, but they were already investigating the three firms mentioned in the report.
“We are closely tracking these kinds of creative efforts by companies to evade sanctions,” a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State told Reuters, in response to questions about the UAE-based shipping entities allegedly helping Venezuela to skirt the increasingly harsher U.S. sanctions on its oil exports.
In June 2020, the United States additionally tightened the sanctions aimed at cutting off the revenues from oil—Venezuela’s only hard-currency income—of the Maduro regime. The U.S. Department of the Treasury targeted in June several maritime companies and tanker owners for having assisted Venezuelan oil exports.
The Latin American country, which holds the world’s largest crude oil reserves, has become increasingly inventive in getting its crude to market, according to various reports in recent weeks.
Earlier in December, Bloomberg reported that Venezuela had boosted its crude oil exports nearly threefold in November to more than 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), including by hiding the true identity of tankers to avoid detection.