By Alexis Milan
The United States Treasury Department has named Belize as one of several destinations where business associates of the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) have laundered money through the use of a shell company.
The Obama administration accused Syria’s government of purchasing oil from ISIS and blacklisted a Syrian-Russian businessman suspected of facilitating those transactions.
The U.S. Treasury Department also penalized Russian and Cypriot businessmen and companies suspected of helping the Syrian Central Bank to evade international sanctions through a web of companies based in Russia, Cyprus and Belize.
The Belize firm linked to the ISIS associates is Kremsont Commercial Inc. which has its address listed as the corner of Eyre and Hutson Streets at the Blake Building in Belize City.
There is no contact information for the firm and the Reporter made several attempts to reach the Director of the International Financial Services Commission (IFSC), Nery Matus but was told time and time again that she was “unavailable”. The IFSC is the body that regulates and licenses offshore companies in Belize.
The Treasury’s actions bar U.S. nationals from doing business with the designated entities and freeze any assets they hold in the U.S. financial system, restricting their access to crucial international financial networks.
Those blacklisted are Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a wealthy Russian businessman and long-standing president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE); George Haswani, a Syrian businessman; Mudalal Khuri, who allegedly represents Syrian regime business and financial interests in Russia and owns five of the designated entities; and Nicos Nicolaou, a Cypriot national who allegedly works for a number of Khuri-linked companies.
U.S. officials have long voiced concerns that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was strengthening ISIS finances by purchasing oil produced by the militant group on territory that used to be controlled by Damascus. However, Wednesday’s charges are the most explicit and direct accusations by the U.S., and the first time sanctions have been imposed over the regime’s oil trade.
“The United States will continue targeting the finances of those enabling Assad to continue inflicting violence on the Syrian people”, the Treasury Department’s Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Adam Szubin, said.
ISIS jihadists have seized swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and sold crude oil from seized refineries on the black market. Washington announced Monday that U.S. warplanes had destroyed 283 fuel tankers that were being used to transport oil to help fund the group in eastern Syria.