US sanctions Hong Kong, UAE firms over ‘financial support’ to Houthi rebels

The two companies sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on Friday were Hong Kong-based Cielo Maritime and UAE-based Global Tech Marine Services.

Washington: Amid concerns over the attacks by armed Houthi rebels on merchant vessels in Red Sea, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department on Friday sanctioned two shiiping companies based in Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for providing financial support to the Yemen-backed group.

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According to a press release by the US State Department, the shipping companies were transporting Iranian commodities on behalf of the network of Iran-based Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) at the behest of Sa’id al-Jamal, a ‘financial facilitator’ for the Yemen-backed Houthis.

The sanctions come close on the heels of US and British warplanes, ships and submarines launching dozens of air strikes across Yemen overnight in retaliation against Houthi forces for attacks on Red Sea shipping assets, widening a regional conflict stemming from Israel’s war in Gaza.

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Additionally, OFAC also identified four vessels as blocked property in which these companies have an interest. The revenue from the commodity sales supports the Houthis and their continued attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the State Department added in the release.

“The United States continues to take action against the illicit Iranian financial networks that fund the Houthis and facilitate their attacks. Together with our allies and partners, we will take all available measures to stop the destabilizing activities of the Houthis and their threats to global commerce.” the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said.

“Sa’id al-Jamal was designated under E.O. 13224, as amended, on June 10, 2021, for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. The IRGC-QF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007 for providing support to multiple terrorist groups,” read the release by the State Department.

“Houthi and IRGC-QF financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal engages in a variety of commercial activities that involve the sale of Iranian commodities to generate revenue for the Houthis and the IRGC-QF,” it added.

The two companies sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on Friday were Hong Kong-based Cielo Maritime and UAE-based Global Tech Marine Services.

“The revenue from the commodity sales supports the Houthis and their continued attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” the release added.

The official spokesperson for the State Department, Mathew Miller, informed further the US will “counter illicit Iranian financial support to the Houthis”.

He added that Washington would weigh up and consider all available measures to stop the activities of the Houthi group in the sea.

“Iran’s financial support to the Houthis has fueled their unrelenting attacks on global commerce in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The United States is today designating two additional companies that have been involved in the shipment of Iranian commodities in support of the Iran-based, Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal and his network. We are also identifying four vessels as blocked property in which these companies have an interest,” Miller said.

“The United States will continue to counter illicit Iranian financial support to the Houthis. Along with our allies and partners, the United States will take available measures to hinder the destabilizing activities of the Houthis that threaten navigational rights and freedoms and global maritime trade,” he added.
The Houthi rebels, who are an Iran-aligned group, claimed to launched the strikes in retaliation for Israel’s Gaza conflict.

The Yemen-backed armed group said they will not stop targeting shipping assets trawling on the Red Sea till the ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza end.

The Houthis have launched several drone and missile attacks on Israel since it went to war with Hamas in Gaza. However, the majority of these projectiles were intercepted.

Israel launched air strikes in Gaza and later rolled out its cavalry across the border in response to the Hamas attacks on October 7, last year.

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