Russia chess champ, Syria oil man targets of new US sanctions
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Russia chess champ, Syria oil man targets of new US sanctions

George Haswani serves as middleman for Assad's oil purchases from IS; Kirsan Ilyumzhinov aided Syrian central bank

This June 14, 2011 file photo shows World Chess Federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as he speaks during a press conference in Moscow. (AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)
This June 14, 2011 file photo shows World Chess Federation president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as he speaks during a press conference in Moscow. (AFP PHOTO / NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States slapped sanctions Wednesday on backers of the Syrian regime including a middleman accused of buying oil from the Islamic State group and the Russian head of the World Chess Federation.

The Treasury Department singled out four individuals and six entities for their support of the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Among those hit was a Syrian businessman called George Haswani, identified as “a middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

The new sanctions also apply to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a wealthy Russian businessman and long-standing president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

He was targeted “for materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of” the Syrian government and central bank, and the central bank chief Adib Mayleh and official Batoul Rida, the US department said.

Ilyumzhinov, a former president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia who has headed FIDE since 1995, said the move was a “provocation” and that he would seek an explanation.

In an interview on Russian state television, Ilyunzhinov said he would go to the US Treasury to “sort things out” in an upcoming visit to the United States.

As head of FIDE, he said he had often visited Syria and met with top officials, including Assad.

“There are no politics in chess,” Ilyumzhinov told R-Sport news agency. “We lobby for our sport in all countries and speak with everyone.”

The sanctions forbid US individuals or entities from doing any business with those on the blacklist, restricting their access to crucial international financial networks.

Haswani and his company, HESCO Engineering and Construction Company were both targeted for allegedly helping to source oil from IS jihadists.

“Haswani is a Syrian businessman who serves as a middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from ISIL. HESCO is a Syrian engineering and construction company that operates energy production facilities in Syria, reportedly in areas controlled by ISIL,” the Treasury Department said.

The European Union placed Haswani on its blacklist last March.

In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department highlighted “ongoing government of Syria ties to ISIL.”

Smoke billows from what is believed to be an oil field which was set alight by Islamic State (IS) group militants in the Mkeishifa area, south of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, as government forces, supported by Popular Mobilization units, try to retake the area from Islamist rebels on April 9, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
Smoke billows from what is believed to be an oil field which was set alight by Islamic State (IS) group militants in the Mkeishifa area, south of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, as government forces, supported by Popular Mobilization units, try to retake the area from Islamist rebels on April 9, 2015. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Oil revenues are a major source of finance for the Islamic State group.

IS 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 US warplanes had destroyed 283 fuel tankers that were being used to transport oil to help fund the group in eastern Syria.

The third individual targeted was Mudalal Khuri, who allegedly represents Syrian regime business and financial interests in Russia and who owns five of the designated entities.

Ilyumzhinov controls the Russian Financial Alliance Bank — one of the entities — along with Khuri.

The fourth person designated was Nicos Nicolaou, a Cypriot national who allegedly works for a number of Khuri-linked companies. The remaining four entities are: Ezegoo Investments Ltd., Hudsotrade Limited, and Primax Business Consultants Limited, all registered in Cyprus; and Belize-based Kremsont Commercial Inc.

“The Syrian government is responsible for widespread brutality and violence against its own people,” said Adam Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement announcing the measures.

“The United States will continue targeting the finances of all those enabling Assad to continue inflicting violence on the Syrian people.”

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