* New EU sanctions came into force on Saturday
* Businessman named as sanction breaker denies the claim
* Iran under increasing Western pressure over nuclear work
By Humeyra Pamuk
DUBAI, Dec 23 An Iranian businessman named by
the European Union for breaching sanctions against Iran denied
any wrongdoing on Sunday, saying his bank and other companies
did not work for the Iranian government.
"This is a mistake," Babak Zanjani told Reuters, speaking in
his office in a high-rise tower in a financial district of Dubai
a day after the sanctions came into force.
Neither his Malaysia-based First Islamic Bank nor his more
than 60 other companies had done anything wrong, he said.
In the latest sanctions, agreed by the EU in October and put
into effect on Saturday, Zanjani was subjected
to "restrictive measures", forbidding EU companies or
individuals doing Iran-related business with him.
The sanctions, aimed at forcing Iran to curb its nuclear
activities, include bans on financial transactions, sales to
Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian
natural gas. The curbs are in addition to earlier bans,
including on the OPEC producer's oil.
The new EU sanctions describe Zanjani as "a key facilitator
for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil related money" and
accuses First Islamic Bank of being used to channel Iranian
Zanjani said the complex nature of his companies'
transactions, involving large sums, might have misled EU
"I carry an Iranian passport and I send quite a lot of money
to my companies all around the world. They must have thought we
are up to something," he said.
Zanjani said there were 64 or 65 companies in his group
operating in a range of industries such as cosmetics, food, oil
and aviation. The website of his Sorinet Group shows at least a
dozen company names, mostly based in the UAE, with some in
He denied that his oil company, International Safe Oil, also
added to the EU's list on Saturday, had any business with Iran's
"I'd like them to show me how I work for Iran. For example
they say we have ties with Iran's oil industry. I have an oil
company but it has no links with Iran. We do business in Iraq,"
"I am an Iranian, if they [the Iranian government] had asked
for such a help I could have, but they never did, I only do my
He said that so far he had not received any negative
reactions to the listing from his customers.
"We don't get financial support from the Iranian government.
But this is bad for reputation," he said.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is peaceful but the
European Union and the United States suspect it of pursuing
weapons capability and hope the sanctions will restrict Iran's
ability to advance the technology and force it to make
concessions at negotiations.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)