Iran is "secretly selling oil" by getting assistance from Malaysia to sidestep U.S. sanctions, reports say.
Referring to the latest findings by a Sweden-based company, Tanker Trackers, the world's largest financial newspaper, Japanese Nikkei, reported on Thursday, Iran's efforts to sustain its oil exports to Asia in the face of tightened U.S. sanctions appear to be getting some assistance from Malaysia, according to analysis of data on ship movements.
"Iranian oil typically arrives in the Straits of Malacca and is handed over using ship-to-ship oil transfer to Chinese very large crude carriers," Samir Madani, the co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, a company in Sweden which monitors the shipping and storage of oil via analysis of ship transmission data, commercial satellite imagery and other information, told the Nikkei Asian Review.
Washington ended its six-month exemptions to some countries for importing Iranian oil last May, warning that any country or company buying Iranian crude will face the risk of being sanctioned.
Nonetheless, Tehran has repeatedly maintained that it will use its utmost effort to export oil.
Meanwhile, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), Abdolnasser Hemmati, claimed last Wednesday that the volume of Iranian oil export has once again increased.
In the meantime, Nikkei reported, that Vandana Hari, founder, and chief executive of Singapore-based oil markets research company Vanda Insights, called the evidence of Iranian oil transfers through Malaysia "circumstantial... but pretty compelling."
Vandana Hari said shipping data she received showed that crude oil shipments to China from Malaysia surged 86% in May from a month earlier.
"This cannot be explained as higher flows of Malaysian crude to China [because] Malaysian oil output is stagnant," Nikkei cited Vandana Hari as saying.
Based on a report filed by Reuters, Iran has managed to export nearly 300,000 barrels of oil during the first three weeks of June.
But Iran was reported to have stockpiled crude on tankers floating on high seas or waiting near oil ports of prospective buyers, such as China. This could explain low exports but higher sales, as Tehran offloads stockpiled oil.
Earlier in March, Sigal Mandelker, the U.S. under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, visited Singapore and Malaysia to warn against any involvement in Iranian sanctions evasion scheme.
"It's very important that these countries have important visibility into the different ways the Iranian regime uses to deceive the international community in connection with the shipment of oil," she said, referring to her talks in Singapore and Malaysia.