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Biden removes Venezuela-related sanctions that Trump incorrectly placed on Italian oil firm

Biden removes Venezuela-related sanctions that Trump incorrectly placed on Italian oil firm
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The Biden administration has lifted sanctions on two Italian companies the former Trump administration blacklisted on its final day in office after incorrectly tying them to Venezuela’s restricted oil sector.

The Treasury Department on Wednesday removed the special designation of two entities related to an individual named Alessandro Bazzoni.

The Trump administration on its last day in office sanctioned Bazzoni and oil firms related to him as being part of an illicit network aimed at moving Venezuelan oil in violation of U.S. sanctions.

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But a Treasury official told The Hill that the Trump sanctions targeted entities that were not associated with the implicated Bazzoni and were made in error. 

“After receiving additional information following the designations, [Office of Foreign Assets Control] concluded that companies were owned by a different Alessandro Bazzoni than the person we designated,” a Treasury official told The Hill. “Consequently, we promptly removed the two companies from our list to avoid inadvertently harming innocent parties.”

This includes the companies named Serigraphiclab and AMG S.A.S. Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C. being removed from OFAC’s list. 

An OFAC designation blocks any assets of the identified person or entities in the U.S., and American citizens are generally prohibited from dealing with the individuals or entities.

The former Trump administration on Jan. 19 imposed sanctions on Bazzoni, an Italian citizen who is the head of oil trading firms alleged to be part of an illicit network aimed at moving Venezuelan oil in violation of U.S. sanctions.

The Treasury official said that Bazzoni remains under U.S. sanctions for allegations he was a principal actor and core facilitator of the network that bought blacklisted oil from Venezuela’s state oil company, PdVSA, and resold it to third-party customers.  

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The U.S. blacklisted PdVSA in 2019, part of its sanctions regime against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom both the former Trump administration and the Biden administration view as illegitimate and have called a dictator.

The Biden administration has signaled it is in no rush to lift an array of punishing sanctions on Venezuela that were imposed by the former Trump administration, a strategy aimed at squeezing the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who the U.S. views as an illegitimate dictator, in support of the internationally-recognized interim president, opposition leader Juan Guaidó. 

But Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenThe CROOK Act offers rare opportunity for bipartisanship on immigration Russia keeping 80K troops at border amid NATO exercise, US officials say India diplomat cancels in-person G-7 meetings over possible coronavirus exposure MORE has said the administration is aiming to tailor sanctions more specifically to target officials within the Maduro government accused of being involved in corruption and human rights abuses, as part of efforts to increase humanitarian assistance to the country suffering under severe shortages of basic necessities like food and medicine.

Blinken also said the administration would look to increase cooperation with countries in the region hosting millions of Venezuelan refugees and increase humanitarian assistance.

The administration also extended temporary protected status for an estimated 300,000 Venezuelans in the United States, allowing them to stay for up to a period of 18 months.

Updated at 3:30 p.m.