On August 26, 2020, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, and the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, announced the indictment of four US individuals for conspiring to purchase sanctioned Iranian petroleum, to sell the petroleum to a Chinese refinery, and to conceal the origin of the petroleum, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and money laundering laws.
Demers described the defendants’ scheme as one involving “front companies, bribes and false contractual documents,” used to conceal illicit activity related to the purchase of Iranian petroleum in violation of US economic sanctions related to Iran. The defendants are accused of conspiring to launder the proceeds through shell companies and offshore financial accounts to prevent authorities from discovering the origin of the funds. According to the Department of Justice, the defendants planned to make two shipments of oil per month for an expected monthly profit of approximately $28 million, they bribed a Chinese official in order to conceal the origin of the petroleum, and conspired to obtain Antigua passports in order to open Swiss bank accounts through which to launder the proceeds of the sales.
The defendants were arrested in February 2020. If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine.