The US government has blacklisted two Indian tanker masters in a new development aimed at hitting the finances of the Houthi group in Yemen.

The two masters are in charge of tankers previously sanctioned by the US for their alleged links to the Iran oil trade, the 159,700-dwt La Pearl (built 1998) and 160,400-dwt Olympics (built 2001), according to the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The Olympics, which was designated under its previous name, Lady Sofia, in March, is under the command of Vivek Ashok Pandey, 38, and had been using falsified papers that suggested the vessel was carrying Malaysian oil, said Ofac.

The vessel’s Indian ship manager, Rayyan Shipping, was also blacklisted.

Pandey has captained the ship since late January, when it loaded oil on behalf of the network of Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal, who is said to be backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, the US said.

The second master, Sandeep Singh Choudhary, 43, is in charge of the La Pearl, which loaded a consignment of Iranian oil in a ship-to-ship transfer, according to the US in April. The tanker also goes under the name of Elite.

The cargo involved in the STS transfer linked to the La Pearl was sold on behalf of Iranian front company Sepehr Energy Jahan Nama Pars, which was blacklisted last November, the US has said.

The US said Sepehr Energy sold Iranian cargoes to fund the overseas activities of proxy groups outside of Iran.

The designations of the two men were part of a wider package of measures that included shipping managers, shipowners and two tankers.

The US said the moves underscore its commitment to “isolating and disrupting the financing of international terrorist groups such as the Houthis”.

Treasury official Brian Nelson said: “The Houthis continue to leverage an expansive support network to facilitate their illicit activities, including hiding the origin of cargo, forging shipping documents and providing services to sanctioned vessels.”

Treasury official Brian Nelson. Photo: US Treasury Department

Al-Jamal, who goes by the Chinese alias of Caihong, or Rainbow, uses a network of shipping businesses to sell oil to China, Syria and other jurisdictions, Ofac alleged. He was blacklisted in 2021.

The sanctioned companies include United Arab Emirates and Oman-based Shark International Shipping, headed by John Britto Aruldhas, which is said to have supplied forged shipping documents.

Ofac also designated two owners, Hong Kong-based Lainey Shipping and Louis Marine Shipholding Enterprises, for alleged links to cargoes controlled by the IRGC.

The US sanctioned the 303,100-dwt Janet (built 2001), owned by Lainey Shipping, and the 318,500-dwt Bella 1 (built 2002), owned by Louis Marine.

The US said Louis Marine is based in Panama, while Equasis lists the company address as Istanbul, Turkey.

Nobody could be reached by phone at Louis Marine or Lainey Shipping. Contact details for Rayyan Shipping were not immediately available.

A person who picked up the phone at Shark International Shipping declined to comment.

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