WASHINGTON — The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned on Wednesday a Russian firm for suspected involvement in manipulating the market to destabilize Venezuela's government by manipulating international oil prices.
The Russian firm, SRT Trading, the owner of state-owned Rosneft, is alleged to have abused "their position as an oil trader and buyer to attempt to exert undue influence on the operations of the Venezuelan government and, in turn, to manipulate global oil markets," said Sigal Mandelker, acting undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.
A Treasury Department statement said Rosneft took advantage of Venezuelan state enterprise PDVSA’s budget crunches to enter into bidding and supply agreements with the Russian firm.
The sanctions bar U.S. citizens or companies from engaging in any business with the firm or from allowing them to place U.S. assets with them, which could have the effect of freezing its assets overseas.
"We have consistently made clear that we will consider a wide range of actions against Russia’s malign activities and against individuals and entities sanctioned for such activities," Mandelker said.
"The sanctions announced today are intended to show that we take seriously our commitment to hold accountable those who engage in destabilizing and destabilizing activities around the world, irrespective of whether they are citizens of Russia or countries around the world.”
Last year, there were 67 sanctioned Russian companies and 437 individuals for human rights violations, weapons proliferation and cybercrimes, according to a Congressional Research Service report. The highest fine so far was $50 million for a company caught exporting weapons and other goods to Iran.
The U.S. Treasury Department plans to issue more sanctions later Wednesday targeting Russian civil society and business leaders who have provided economic support to the Russian government, said Treasury Department Undersecretary David Cohen.
The sanctions aim to stop the oil industry from profiting Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Cohn.
"The sanctions we're announcing today, which were prepared in consultation with Congress, are significant and they're going to have an impact in Russia," Cohen said in a teleconference announcing the sanctions.
"Over the past several years, we've seen a significant reduction in Russian civil society groups that were targets of repressive legislation and unfavorable policies," Cohn said. "We've seen the biggest oil and gas producer in the world, Russia, become the leader in establishing a climate of political, economic and social isolation that is damaging its citizens, and that this is ... sanctioned for it."