Federal Court Sentences US Citizen, Chinese National For Attempting To Sell Sanctioned Iranian Oil To China

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John Oyewale Contributor
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A U.S. federal court in Pennsylvania on Tuesday sentenced an American and a Chinese man to nearly four years in prison for attempting to illegally ship sanctioned Iranian oil to China, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

Zhenyu “Bill” Wang, 43, a Chinese citizen from Dallas, Texas, and Daniel Ray Lane, 42, of McKinney, Texas, “schemed with co-conspirators to evade U.S. economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) from July 2019 to February 2020 by facilitating the purchase of sanctioned oil from Iran, masking its origins and selling the oil under masked origins to buyers in the People’s Republic of China,” court documents revealed, according to the DOJ’s press release.

The U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III sentenced each convict to 45 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, federal prosecutors announced.

The convicted pair also had “obtained Antiguan passports to facilitate the transaction and to establish offshore bank accounts to receive funds”, the DOJ said.

Looking to earn huge profits, both individuals planned an initial shipment of 500,000 barrels of Iranian petroleum and intended to increase the shipments to one or two million barrels per month for at least one year, the DOJ said.

Some $4 million of an initial $5 million payment for the scheme was to be provided in cash, Lane and another co-conspirator understood, according to the DOJ. Wang reportedly planned to earn $1.5 million in profit from the initial shipment.

Wang and Lane knew full well that the sales contravened U.S. sanctions on Iran, the DOJ said.

“I love sanction to be honest with you and the sanctions make everybody money,” Wang reportedly said.

“[S]anctions can always be massaged . . . you know, there is always a way around it,” Lane reportedly said.

Wang was the critical link to the Chinese buyer of the sanctioned oil, according to the DOJ. He “secured a written offer from a Chinese buyer and brokered a contract of sale with this buyer,” and “arranged for bribe payments to be made to Chinese officials to facilitate the illegal transaction,” the DOJ said. (RELATED: Here’s How China Is Helping Iran Bankroll Hamas, Other Terror Orgs)

Lane consented to help launder the profits the Iranian sellers would earn from the illegal transaction by “offer[ing] to use the mineral rights that he sold through his business, Stack Royalties, to conceal the Iranians’ profits,” the DOJ’s press release revealed. Lane even reportedly bought a money counter capable of quickly counting the expected millions.

The DOJ identified three other conspirators: Nicholas Hovan, Nicholas Fuchs, and Robert Thwaites.

Lane and Hovan had already been sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison back in January, while Fuchs and Thwaites each received 10-month prison sentences, the DOJ said.

“The court’s sentence makes clear that those who place personal profit over national security will face serious consequences,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division partly said, according to the press release.

“It’s one thing to be entrepreneurial and take risks, but when your business plan hinges on evading U.S. sanctions, you’re doing it wrong,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“Wang, Lane and their co-conspirators’ scheme to make millions also would have enriched Iran, one of our government’s foreign adversaries, in direct contravention of measures meant to protect American interests and national security,” Romero added in part, the press release reported.