DUSHANBE, May 2, 2013, Asia-Plus -- The U.S. Treasury Department has frozen assets of six enterprises and one private individual following the U.S. president’s decree calling to block assets of those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Russia’s news agency, Itar-Tass, reported on May 1 with reference to The Federal Register, an official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains most routine publications and public notices of government agencies.

Among them is Kont Investment Bank with headquarters in Dushanbe, which is designated by the Department of Treasure as being controlled by Kont Kozmetik.

Kont Kozmetik is owned by Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani.  The Treasure Department ordered to freeze Kont Kozmetik’s assets as well.

According to Itar-Tass, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published a final rule in the Federal Register on May 1.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, however, did not clarify the reason for putting these companies on the list.

We will recall that the United States on April 11 slapped financial penalties on the Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani, a Malaysian bank and a network of companies it accused of attempting to evade international sanctions on Iran''s nuclear program through money laundering.

The Treasury Department blacklisted Babak Zanjani and First Islamic Investment Bank for providing financial and other support to the National Iranian Oil Company.

It said Zanjani and a network of companies had moved billions of dollars on behalf of the Iranian government, including tens of millions of dollars to an engineering unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Press release issued by the Treasury Department says Zanjani is the chairman of Sorinet Group, a group of companies and financial institutions that have been used by the Iranian government to finance its sales of oil around the world.

By taking the action against Zanjani, the bank and the network of companies, the Treasury Department prohibited transactions between them and any U.S. citizen and freezes any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Dubai-based Sorinet Commercial Trust Bankers (SCT Bankers) and Malaysia-based First Islamic Investment Bank (FIIB) were reportedly designated for providing financial, material, technological or other support for Naftiran Intertrade Company Ltd (NICO) and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).   

Turkey-based Kont Kozmetik was designated for being owned or controlled by Babak Zanjani.  Kont Kozmetik was founded in 2007 by Zanjani.  In 2011 Kont Kozmetik bought Kont Investment Bank in Tajikistan.  Treasury is designating Kont Investment Bank for being owned or controlled by Kont Kozmetik.

It should be noted that Kont Investment Bank owns 100 percent of shares in Asian Express Airline, which on its part, assumes the 100 percent ownership in Dushanbe’s Bus Terminal.     

The website of Zanjani’s Sorinet Group shows at least a dozen company names, mostly based in the UAE, with some in Tajikistan and Turkey.

Asian Express Airline, Dushanbe Bus Terminal and Dushanbe City Center are also among those companies.  Asian Express Airline is on the Main Company List while Dushanbe Bus Terminal and Dushanbe City Center are on the Main Project List compiled on December 24, 2012.

The European Union imposed sanctions under its Iran-related authority against Zanjani on December 21, 2012.  In those sanctions, Zanjani was subjected to ‘restrictive measures,” forbidding EU companies or individuals doing Iran-related business with him.

Meanwhile, Zanjani denied any wrongdoing, saying his bank and other companies did not work for the Iranian government.  “This is a mistake,” Babak Zanjani told Reuters on December 23, 2012.  Neither his Malaysia-based First Islamic Bank nor his more than 60 other companies had done anything wrong, he said.

In an interview with BBC Persian’s correspondent Fardad Fahrazad in Dushanbe on the occasion of reopening of renovated Dushanbe Bus Terminal on March 22, Iranian billionaire businessman Babak Zanjani also noted that he has been wrongly accused and EU sanctions are unfair.

BBC Persian’s Fahrazad notes Babak Zanjani has more money in the bank than the entire GDP of this tiny former Soviet republic, but in the past few years he has been investing in businesses here, and today he is in town for the inauguration of his latest venture - a smart new transport hub for the capital, Dushanbe.

“Mr. Zanjani is clearly very well connected in Tajikistan - the president and a large entourage of officials turned up for the grand opening. In addition to the bus business he also owns an airline and perhaps more importantly for him, a bank.

“Mr. Zanjani may be on the sanctions list, but with friends in high places, a banking empire and a network of companies stretching across several countries he may also be in a unique position to capitalize on sanctions.”