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Ofer Brothers Group, owned by Israel’s richest family, denied wrongdoing after its surprise inclusion on a U.S. State Department blacklist last week, but its refusal to address a slew of media speculation about past links with Israel’s security services only deepened the mystery.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeing influential compatriots charged with undermining the sanctions against Tehran that he has championed, gave a muted response, saying that his government had approved no deals wi
But US state department Mark Toner dismissed the denials, saying: "Ofer Holdings Group is the parent of a company called Tanker Pacific, and that's the company that actually sold this tanker to the Iranians.
Then on Sunday, it emerged that several tankers part-owned by Tanker Pacific had repeatedly transported oil and petroleum products to and from Iran over the past decade, while Israeli officials were engaged in an intense diplomatic effort to tighten international sanctions.
Israeli media reported the 89-year-old had passed away after a long illness.
After the sanctions announcement, Ofer Brothers Group said it had never sold ships to Iran, and that the Israeli government would confirm this.
The Israeli parliament's economic committee tried to debate the affair, but its meeting was halted after only 15 minutes when the chairman received a note warning that such a discussion could be "damaging".
This prompted speculation that the Ofer brothers might have been helping the Israeli security services spy on Iran.