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US sanctions Turkish nationals for transactions supporting Iran’s UAV production

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Two Turkish nationals are among individuals and entities targeted by fresh US sanctions for their involvement in transactions related to Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and military aircraft development, Voice of America’s Turkish edition reported on Tuesday.

Mehmet Tokdemir and Alaaddin Aykut were sanctioned for facilitating financial transactions in US dollars and euros to support Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company’s (HESA) procurement activities.

HESA, a company that manufactures Iran’s Ababil and Shahid series UAVs, has been under US sanctions since 2008 for its connections to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and its support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). HESA used the alias “Shahin Co.” to evade these sanctions and export controls in its contracts with overseas-based suppliers.

According to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Tokdemir and Aykut played a critical role in these transactions, which involved purchases from various suppliers, including China’s Hanghzou Fuyang Koto Machinery Co, Ltd. Koto Machinery had facilitated the sale and delivery of light aircraft engines suitable for Iran’s Shahid series drones, providing significant financial, material and technological support to HESA’s efforts. As a result, Koto Machinery, Tokdemir and Aykut are now under sanctions for supporting HESA.

“Iran’s continued, deliberate proliferation of its UAVs enables Russia, its proxies in the Middle East, and other destabilizing actors to undermine global stability,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States will continue to take action against Iran’s UAV procurement networks, and encourages jurisdictions to exercise the due diligence necessary to prevent the export of these components to Iran.”

Tuesday’s action builds on OFAC’s March 9, 2023 designation of five China-based companies and one individual responsible for the sale and shipment of thousands of aerospace components, including those with UAV applications, to HESA.

As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. In addition any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. All transactions by US persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons are prohibited.

In March 2023 the US Treasury imposed sanctions on another Turkish national, Murat Bükey, and his company, Ozone Aviation, for their involvement in procurement activities related to Iran’s UAV and military aircraft development.

These sanctions are part of a broader effort by the United States to address Iran’s UAV industry and its implications for regional and global security.

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