FILE PHOTO: A crude oil tanker is docked at Isla Oil Refinery PDVSA terminal in Willemstad on the island of Curacao, February 22, 2019. REUTERS

LONDON/SINGAPORE/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Chinese logistics firm has emerged as a central player in the supply of sanctioned oil from Iran and Venezuela, even after it was blacklisted by Washington two years ago for handling Iranian crude, seven sources with knowledge of the deals told Reuters.

The more prominent role of China Concord Petroleum Co, also known as CCPC, and its expansion into trading with Venezuela, have not previously been reported and highlight the limitations of Washington’s system of restrictions, analysts say.

The details of the deals were described to Reuters by a range of individuals including one China-based source familiar with CCPC’s operations, Iranian officials and a source at Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA.

CCPC got involved in the Venezuelan oil trade this year through deals with small independent Chinese refineries known as teapots, according to monthly loading schedules, export schedules and invoices from April and May this year from PDVSA, as well as tanker tracking data and the PDVSA source.

The Hong Kong-registered firm has quickly become an important partner for Caracas, chartering ships in April and May carrying over 20% of Venezuela’s total oil exports in that period or nearly $445 million worth of crude, the PDVSA documents and tanker tracking data showed. CCPC did not charter any ships carrying Venezuelan oil in June, according to the documents.

Many refineries worldwide, including state-run players in China, stopped buying crude from Iran and Venezuela after the U.S. imposed sanctions, cutting millions of barrels per day from exports and billions of dollars from their income.

Dependent on oil revenues to run their countries, Tehran and Caracas have since engaged in an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with Washington to keep exporting crude, employing numerous techniques to avoid detection, including ship-to-ship transfers, shell companies and middlemen who operate outside the U.S. financial sphere.

In the past year, CCPC has acquired at least 14 tankers to transport oil from Iran or Venezuela to China, two of the sources said.

A person reached by Reuters on CCPC’s registered phone number said she was unaware of any business activities of CCPC. She declined to be named. An email sent to an address for the company listed on the U.S. Treasury’s website did not get a response.

PDVSA and Venezuela’s oil ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Iran’s oil ministry also declined to comment.

“China maintains normal, legitimate trades with Iran and Venezuela under the framework of international law that shall deserve respect and protection,” a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said in response to questions about the role of Chinese companies in the trading of sanctioned oil.

“China strongly opposes unilateral sanctions and urges the United States to remove the ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ on companies and individuals.”

‘AXES OF RESILIENCE’

U.S. officials, typically, do not move to interdict Iranian or Venezuelan oil shipments bought by Chinese or any international customers. But they can make it difficult for those involved in the trade to operate by barring U.S. citizens and companies from dealing with them, making them pariahs for western banks.

In 2019, Washington added CCPC to a list of entities under sanctions for violating restrictions on handling and transacting Iranian oil. The company has not commented publicly on the sanctions and Reuters could not determine what impact the U.S. blacklisting has had on CCPC.

CCPC supplies half a dozen Chinese teapot refineries with Iranian oil, three China-based sources said.

The sources declined to disclose the identities of these refineries or to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. The documents reviewed by Reuters did not include the names of the refineries.

Iranian officials familiar with the matter confirmed that CCPC was a central player in Tehran’s oil trade with China.

China received a daily average of 557,000 barrels of Iranian crude between November and March, or roughly 5% of total imports by the world’s biggest importer, according to Refinitiv Oil Research, returning to levels last seen before former U.S. President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018.

China’s imports of Venezuelan crude and fuel averaged 324,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the past year to end-April, according to cargo-tracking specialist Vortexa Analytics, below pre-sanctions levels, but still more than 60% of Venezuela’s total oil exports.

The sanctions on Venezuela’s PDVSA were introduced in 2019 as part of a bid to topple that country’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

The U.S. Treasury declined to comment when asked about CCPC’s critical role in facilitating oil trade from Iran and Venezuela, but said that the agency pursues actions on an ongoing basis.

Julia Friedlander, a former senior sanctions official with the U.S. Treasury, said the growing trade in blacklisted oil showed how those opposed were getting better at evasion.

“It shows there are limitations as to what U.S. sanctions can do especially when you target multiple like-minded or selectively like-minded actors like oil traders. So, you incentivise these alternative axes of resilience,” said Friedlander, who is now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center.

The sanctions have battered the economies of Iran and Venezuela and dealt a serious blow to their tanker fleets, which are overstretched and in need of an overhaul, according to analysts and publicly available data on PDVSA’s fleet.

    The 14 tankers acquired by CCPC have a capacity of around 28 million barrels of oil. At least one other tanker is also linked to CCPC, boosting their capacity to some 30 million barrels, the two sources said.

Iran exported more than 600,000 bpd of crude in June, a Reuters survey showed. That compares with a high of 2.8 million bpd in 2018, before sanctions were imposed, but up from 300,000 bpd in 2020, according to assessments based on tanker tracking data.


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Kenosha-011

Protesters, framed by a peace symbol, stand outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis., during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year. (AP Ph...

Kenosha-003

Judge Bruce Schroeder talks about why he let the jury take home the jury instructions at the end of the day in Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-015

Mark Richards, Kyle Rittenhouse's lead attorney, talks about how letting the jury take home the jury instructions may not be a good idea during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-006

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, pulls out his chair for a meeting Judge Bruce Schroeder called during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-001

Kyle Rittenhouse is comfort by his lawyer as he was acquitted of all charges at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation. (AP Photo)

Kenosha-010

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, along with all of the attorneys in the case make their way out of the courtroom after the jury was relieved for the day at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-013

Protesters stand outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (AP Photo)

Kenosha-005

Justin Blake, uncle of Jacob Blake, raises his fist outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis., during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last yea...

Kenosha-009

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth hands out cookies outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 in Kenosha, Wis., during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last yea...

Kenosha-004

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, looks over to his attorneys as the jury is dismissed for the day during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-007

Natalie Wisco, an attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse, left, and Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger get video ready that was requested by the jury for deliberations during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, P...

Kenosha-008

Defendant Kyle Rittenhouse checks his cell phone as he waits with his attorneys for the judge to relieve the jury during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-002

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, enters the courtroom with his attorneys Mark Richards, left, and Corey Chirafisi for a meeting called by Judge Bruce Schroeder at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kenosha-011 Kenosha-003 Kenosha-015 Kenosha-006 Kenosha-001 Kenosha-010 Kenosha-013 Kenosha-005 Kenosha-009 Kenosha-004 Kenosha-007 Kenosha-008 Kenosha-002

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Dems-002

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., celebrates the House passage of President Joe Biden's expansive social and environment bill with other Democrats in the House Chamber, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (AP Photo)

Dems-003

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks to meet with reporters about plans to pass President Joe Biden's domestic agenda as the House meets to debate the "Build Back Better" Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1(AP Photo)8, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Dems-004

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., walks on the White House campus, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo)

Dems-001

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., presides over House passage of President Joe Biden's expansive social and environment bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (AP Photo)

mccarthy-002

In this image from House Television, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks on the House floor during debate on the Democrats' expansive social and environment bill at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. (House Television via AP)

Dems-005

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., joined at left by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the ranking member, holds his gavel as the panel prepares the domestic agenda for a vote in the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo)

Dems-006

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., speaks to reporters outside the House chamber during votes on President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo)

Dems-002 Dems-003 Dems-004 Dems-001 mccarthy-002 Dems-005 Dems-006





Voting Laws in Georgia, Florida & Texas


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Taiwan deploys advanced F-16V fighter jets amid China threat

Taiwan-004

Newly commissioned upgraded F-16V fighter jets are seen at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as the island steps up its defense capabilities in the face of continuing threat...

Taiwan-001

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen poses for photos from the cockpit during a ceremony to commission into service 64 upgraded F-16V fighter jets at an Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Ai...

Taiwan-007

Taiwanese Air Force personnel pass by one of the newly commissioned upgraded F-16V fighter jets at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as the island steps up its defense capab...

Taiwan-008

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen sitting in the cockpit is briefed during a ceremony to commission into service 64 upgraded F-16V fighter jets at an Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Ai...

Taiwan-003

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen passes by Taiwan Air Force personnel during a ceremony to commission 64 upgraded F-16V fighter jets at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as t...

Taiwan-006

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen inspects newly commissioned upgraded F-16V fighter jets at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as the island steps up its defense capabilities ...

Taiwan-005

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen inspects newly commissioned upgraded F-16V fighter jets at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as the island steps up its defense capabilities ...

Taiwan-002

A Taiwanese Air Force flag bearer passes by one of the newly commissioned upgraded F-16V fighter jets at Air Force base in Chiayi in southwestern Taiwan Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Taiwan has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its Air Force, as the island steps up its defense...

Taiwan-004 Taiwan-001 Taiwan-007 Taiwan-008 Taiwan-003 Taiwan-006 Taiwan-005 Taiwan-002

Afghan Taliban’s victory boosts Pakistan’s radicals

1

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2021 file photo, Pakistan Army troops patrol along the fence on the Pakistan Afghanistan border at Big Ben hilltop post in Khyber district, Pakistan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP,...

7

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2021 file photo, Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP, have become emboldened in tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. (AP Photo)

6

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2012 file photo, Pakistani Taliban patrol in then their stronghold of Shawal in Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP, have become emboldened i...

2

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2021 file photo, Pakistan Army troops observe the area from hilltop post on the Pakistan Afghanistan, in Khyber district, Pakistan.The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP, have become embold...

5

FILE - In this July 30, 2021 file photo, Police officers carry a casket of their colleague, who was killed in a grenade attack, during a funeral prayer, in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the T...

8

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2021 file photo, Taliban fighters display their flag on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP, have become emboldened in tribal areas along the border with A...

4

FILE - In this April 21, 2021 file photo, a police officer and rescue workers arrive at the site of bomb blast in Quetta, Pakistan. The Taliban win in Afghanistan is giving a boost to militants in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the TTP, have become emboldened in tribal areas a...

3

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2021 file photo, Security officials examine the site of suicide bombing in a checkpoint on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan. The Taliban win next door in Afghanistan is good news for Pakistani militants and the country's toxic mix of radical religious parties, but bad news f...

1 7 6 2 5 8 4 3


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BEIJING’S ISLAND-BUILDING IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

Runway

Runway

China is expanding the construction of its facilities on Fiery Cross Reef. Provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), this June 28, 2015 photo reveals Beijing has nearly completed a 3,000 meter (9,800-foot) airstrip, long enough to accommodate most Chinese military aircraft. Two h...

Expansion

Expansion

Reclamation on Fiery Cross Reef, which lies on the west side of the Spratly Islands, began in August of 2014 and its principal landmass was finished by November. Dredgers have created a land mass that spans the entire existing reef and is approximately 3,000 meters long and 200-300 meters wide.

Facilities

Facilities

This picture taken last November shows construction work being carried out on Fiery Cross Reef. The reef reportedly already houses a helicopter landing pad, a 300-meter-long wharf, a harbor large enough to dock military tankers, barracks and artillery emplacements.

South Johnson Reef

South Johnson Reef

This reef was one of the first facilities to finish principal land reclamation. This recent picture shows that a radar tower is nearing completion at the north end of the land mass. According to AMTI, a new large multi-level military facility has been built in the center of the island. Up to six sur...

A naval base?

A naval base?

Beginning in early 2015, Mischief Reef - also located in the Spratlys - has undergone extensive reclamation activity. Experts say that the recent widening of the southern entrance to the reef, coupled with sightings of Chinese navy vessels, may suggest a future role for the reclaimed reef as a naval...

From reef to island

From reef to island

Significant construction on Gaven Reef began in 2014, with a total of 114,000 square meters of land already created. Satellite pictures show just how fast construction has progressed on the reef. A new artificial island was created between March (left) and August (right) 2014.

Troop garrison

Troop garrison

According to AMTI, China has had a troop garrison on Gaven Reef since 2003, which has included a large supply platform where ships can dock. Experts say a new main square building in the reef appears to be an anti-aircraft tower.

A standardized process

A standardized process

As seen in this image, the basic process of expanding these features involves dredging sand from the seafloor and dumping it onto the reefs. The structure is raised above the high water line, hiding the status of the bank or reef beneath. The sand is then smoothed out and workers surround the island...

'Historic rights'

'Historic rights'

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich waterway, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The US Pacific Fleet commander recently said China was "creating a great wall of sand" in the South China Sea, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions. Beijin...

Territorial disputes

Territorial disputes

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, which have led to territorial disputes in the area. Last summer, China's deployment of a massive oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi escalated tensions in the region, sparking a standoff at sea and violent anti-C...

US concerns

US concerns

Washington is concerned China's efforts carry a military dimension that could undermine the US' naval and economic power in the Pacific, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the new artificial islands. Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing and ...

Ecological impact

Ecological impact

The Philippines filed a formal plea at the UN last year, challenging Beijing's territorial claims. Manila said China's reclamation activities are causing "irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the South China Sea." It also claimed that the destruction of co...

Runway Expansion Facilities South Johnson Reef A naval base? From reef to island Troop garrison A standardized process 'Historic rights' Territorial disputes US concerns Ecological impact

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise

South Sea Fleet/China National Radio A JH-7 fighter-bomber assigned to the People's Liberation Army South Sea Fleet fires rockets during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on 14 and 15 May.

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise

South Sea Fleet/China National Radio A warplane assigned to the People's Liberation Army South Sea Fleet strafe a floating target with rocket during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on 14 and 15 May. South Sea Fleet/China National Radio

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise

South Sea Fleet/China National Radio A warplane assigned to the People's Liberation Army South Sea Fleet strafe a floating target with rocket during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on 14 and 15 May. South Sea Fleet/China National Radio

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise

South Sea Fleet/China National Radio A JH-7 fighter-bomber assigned to the People's Liberation Army South Sea Fleet takes off from a runway during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea on 14 and 15 May. South Sea Fleet/China National Radio

China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise China Drops Thousands of Bombs and Missiles in Colossal Military Exercise