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What does the U.S. sanction against Rosneft oil company mean?

On February 18, the United States took one of the most forceful steps, so far, to try to encircle the actions of the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, by blocking oil exports. The measure taken was a sanction against the Russian oil company Rosneft Trading S.A., incorporated in Switzerland and mostly owned by the Russian Federation, pursuant to Executive Order 13,850.

The sanction blocks all assets and interests owned by Rosneft Trading, S.A., and Mr. Didier Casimiro, its presidentThe Company is not responsible for the ownership or control of the 50%, which are located in the United States or owned or controlled by U.S. persons, as well as any entity owned directly or indirectly by the 50% or more of the Company or its President. 

In January 2019 the North American country had issued a series of sanctions which limited Venezuela's oil export operations. However, the Russian company had managed to evade the sanctions under the argument of the commitment to pay the debt that the Latin American country had contracted with Russia. 

The document submitted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury explains that the oil company and its president, Didier Casimiro, negotiated the sale and transportation of Venezuelan crude oil. "The United States is determined to prevent the looting of Venezuela's oil assets by the Maduro government.", said Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary. 

The missive details four events that have been key to infringing the sanction on Rosneft:

  • Shipment of two million barrels of crude oil from Venezuela to West Africa facilitated by the Russian company, on behalf of PDVSA (January 2020).
  • PDVSA planned shipments of approximately 55 million barrels of crude oil with Rosneft (between September and December 2019).
  • PDVSA shipped one million barrels of oil from Venezuela bound for Asia (September 2019).
  • Rosneft negotiated the shipment of two million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil, despite difficulties in marketing the country's oil following sanctions imposed early last year (August 2019).

General License 36which authorizes such business activities as may be necessary to terminate operations or transactions with the Russian company, or any entity in which it owns directly or indirectly fifty percent (50%) or more, to be completed by May 20, 2020. 

Experts consulted by the BBC News media outlet indicated that after the first sanctions of 2019, the Chinese and Indians withdrew from a large part of the Venezuelan hydrocarbons business for fear of the sanctions imposed. In view of this situation, Rosneft has acted as an intermediary to guarantee the sale of oil with both countries, which economically oxygenates the Venezuelan government. 

The sanctions imposed in February, as in previous years, are not permanent. and its objective is that through them behavioral changes are made, according to the document. Likewise, the U.S. country clarifies that the sanctions may be lifted once the sanctioned party takes concrete, significant and verifiable actions to support democracy in Venezuela.

In Alan Aldana & Abogados we have a specialized team to attend matters related to hydrocarbons and compliance to avoid situations that fall within the scope of the sanctions of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, as well as to plan, prepare and, if necessary, anticipate a legal contingency to safeguard the rights and interests of the commercial operations of the companies.

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