Washington: The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last week “designated Alrosa” with the aim of cutting off additional sources of support and revenue for the Russian Government to wage its unprovoked war against Ukraine.
“These sanctions will continue to apply pressure to key entities that enable and fund Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine,” said Brian Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “These actions, taken with the Department of State and in coordination with our allies and partners, reflect our continued effort to restrict the Kremlin’s access to assets, resources, and sectors of the economy that are essential to supplying and financing Putin’s brutality.”
The Treasury Department said diamonds are one of Russia’s top ten non-energy exports by value, with exports in 2021 totalling over $4.5 billion. On 24th February, 2022, OFAC identified Alrosa as subject to prohibitions pursuant to Directive 3 under E.O. 14024, “Prohibitions Related to New Debt and Equity of Certain Russia-related Entities” (Russia-related Entities Directive).
“Today OFAC is expanding previous sanctions by designating Alrosa pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being owned or controlled by, or for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Russian Government. Alrosa has also been sanctioned by Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the Bahamas. All entities owned 50% or more, directly or indirectly, by Alrosa are blocked under E.O. 14024, even if not separately designated or identified by OFAC,” the statement noted.
In a separate statement, US Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and Congressman Austin Scott (R-GA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and of the US delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, led a bipartisan group of eight Members of Congress in writing to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen to urge the Biden Administration to examine loopholes in the sanctions regime imposed on the Russian diamond industry, particularly the company Alrosa.
In their letter to Blinken and Yellen, they stated, “Experts note a “major loophole” remains in the sanctions regime that allows for importation of diamonds manufactured in India or elsewhere because of the interpretation provided in OFAC FAQs. Namely, the term “Russian Federation origin” excludes goods “substantially transformed in a third country,” and it has long been the view of Customs and Border Protection that the cutting or polishing of diamonds in a third country would qualify as a substantial transformation. A recent report on the diamond industry indicated approximately 95% of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished in India. Thus, as it stands at this time, a diamond can be mined by an Alrosa subsidiary, polished or cut in India or another country, and sold to the United States without any prohibition, making a profit for the Russian government.”
“We first ask that the Treasury Department reconsider the interpretation of origin that allows for the importation of diamonds from countries that may cut or polish Alrosa’s diamonds. Second, the United States should work with its Indian counterparts, as well as those in trading centers such as Dubai, to ensure they are not being used to line the pockets of those closest to Vladimir Putin.”