News'Laundered' Russian oil makes its way to the Pentagon: findings by journalists

'Laundered' Russian oil makes its way to the Pentagon: findings by journalists

Oil from Russia was going to the Pentagon. First it was "laundered" by a refinery from Greece (illustrative photo).
Oil from Russia was going to the Pentagon. First it was "laundered" by a refinery from Greece (illustrative photo).
Images source: © Getty Images | Future Publishing
ed. KRO
6:08 AM EST, November 15, 2023

A Greek refinery has been implicated in importing oil from Russia and selling it to other parties, including the American Department of Defense. This information surfaced on Tuesday in a "The Washington Post" report. However, it turns out that this oil was 'laundered'; its actual origin was concealed through a sequence of transactions involving companies from Turkey and the UAE.

The media outlet disclosed that the Pentagon has entered into contracts worth nearly a billion dollars with the Greek refinery, Motor Oil Hellas. These contracts were established after March 2022, meaning after the US embargo on Russian oil was enacted. It was later revealed that the Greek company contracted by the Department of Defense was indeed procuring its oil from Russia.

The Greek refinery implicated in buying 'laundered' oil from Russia

"The Washington Post" cites data from the company Refinitiv, which tracks commodity flows. Their research indicates that the Greek company was sourcing its oil from a terminal in Dortyol, Turkey. Interestingly, this depot received the majority of its supply, precisely 3.7 million out of 5.7 million barrels, from Russia.

Throughout this process, the petroleum changed ownership. Initially, a company located in the United Arab Emirates purchased it, followed by a Turkish state company.

Moreover, there was a noticeable increase in shipments from Russia to the Turkish depot following the decision of the European Union to impose an embargo on Russian oil and petroleum product imports by sea.

Pentagon claims ignorance of the oil's origins in Russia

A representative of the Pentagon relayed to the newspaper that the department was completely unaware that the oil was sourced from Russia and directed to the Greek supplier. The Department emphasized that its contractors, including Motor Oil Hellas, are "accountable for ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and regulations regarding dealings with Russia and Russian companies" and "are required to certify their compliance as part of the procurement process".

This 'laundered' oil wasn't exclusively bought by the United States. Other clients of Motor Oil Hellas encompassed companies and institutions from Italy, France, Spain, and Great Britain.

The Greek company rebuffed allegations of buying petroleum products from Russia. However, when quizzed on verifying the certificates' authenticity, no response was given.

Sanctions circumvented by Russia

Corroborated by expert consultation, the newspaper confirmed that there are frequent instances of falsified certificates, particularly in Turkey where they are generally accepted without scrutiny.

There's no motivation to actively prevent this. It's a highly lucrative trade for Turkey, a country that maintains good relations with Russia. Consequently, they prefer a lax regulatory stance, tending to accept documents without questioning their veracity - commented George Voloshin, a specialist in combating money laundering and financial crime, to the newspaper.

Based on the findings of "The Washington Post" and sources quoted, Russia has managed to sidestep sanctions imposed on it, including the G7's price ceiling on Russian oil, likely due to enforcement vulnerabilities.

In fact, thus far, only two companies from Turkey and the UAE have been penalized financially for circumventing restrictions on Russian commodities, having traded Russian oil at a rate exceeding the threshold.

Related content