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U.S. drops Ofer Bros. from sanctions list

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration lifted sanctions on an Israeli shipping firm it had charged with dealing with Iran.

The United States in May had sanctioned the Ofer Brothers Group for  providing a tanker valued at $8.65 million to an Iranian shipping company.

The sanctions occasioned a scandal in Israel, which has been at the forefront of efforts to isolate Iran because of the Islamic Republic’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

On Tuesday,  the State Department said it had removed Ofer Brothers, but kept on the list three companies indirectly owned by the company.

"Our intent was to sanction the specific entities in the Sammy Ofer shipping organization that were responsible for providing a tanker to Iran," it said in a statement. "The use of the name ‘Ofer Brothers Group,’ a commonly used trade name, caused confusion for some banks and companies that were trying to comply with U.S. sanctions.  The complex nature of the conglomerate’s business structure necessitated that we take the time to look closely at these companies in order to ensure that we were identifying the precise legal names of the entities directly responsible for the sanctionable transaction."

The firm, which had maintained that the sale was inadvertent, told the Associated Press that "the action clears our name."

The brothers, widely respected and believed to be the richest men in Israel, died in the months intervening — Sammy in June at 89 and Yuli last week at 87.

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