Trump accidentally sanctioned Italian restaurant instead of Venezuelan oil firm during final days in office

‘When you move that fast, you tend to make mistakes’

Louise Hall
Sunday 04 April 2021 16:18
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Former president Donald Trump accidentally sanctioned an Italian restaurant on a blacklist meant for a network of Venezuelan oil firms, reports have said.

Reuters reported that in 2019 Mr Trump sanctioned a network of oil firms and individuals tied to Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as part of a plan to crackdown on blacklisted crude oil.

The former president was seeking to force the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro, who the administration accused of corruption, human rights violations, and manipulating his 2018 re-election.

On Mr Trump’s last day in office, the treasury department imposed sanctions on a man named Alessandro Bazzoni over accusations he was tied to a network attempting to evade sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector.

However, an Italian restaurant owner in Verona, Italy, who has the same name, got a rude shock when he discovered his company, named AMG SAS Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C, had been put on the blacklist.

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“When I heard that my current accounts had been blocked, I thought it was a joke,” restaurant owner Mr Bazzoni, told Corriere della Sera.

“These are already difficult times for us restaurant owners, the last thing I needed was to have my accounts blocked.”

A treasury official corrected its error and acknowledged the mistake on Wednesday, Reuters reported. A treasury official said the department realised the companies were owned by different individuals in a case of mistaken identity.

On an updated list on the US treasury’s website dated 31 March, the company, along with another that had been wrongly listed, were deleted from the blacklist.

“They resolved the problem. I shouldn’t be involved anymore,” Mr Bazzoni said. “It was a mistake ... thankfully it was all resolved in a couple of months.”

The treasury also reportedly mistakenly blacklisted a graphic design company owned by another man called Alessandro Bazzoni in Sardinia.

“At the end of the Trump administration they were doing a lot really, really fast with respect to Venezuela, Iran and China,” Tim O’Toole, a sanctions specialist at law firm Miller & Chevalier, told Reuters.

“When you move that fast, you tend to make mistakes,” he added.

Mr Bazzoni said that while he did not receive an apology from the US treasury for the mistake, “the important thing is they removed my name from that list.”

“I thank the new American government for the efficiency with which it intervened,” he told Corriere della Sera.

The Sardinian business owner of SeriGraphicLab confirmed to The Guardian that his company had been slapped with sanctions in January but declined to comment further to the newspaper.

The Independent has contacted the office of Mr Trump for comment.

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