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Cooking oil or crude oil? Italian restaurant owner wrongly targeted by US sanctions

WASHINGTON, Apr 1 (Reuters) – One of the final acts of the Donald Trump administration was almost certainly one of the most confusing for Alessandro Bazzoni, a restaurant owner in Verona, Italy.

As part of a crackdown on Venezuelan crude, former President Trump’s Treasury Department accidentally imposed sanctions on Jan.19 against the Italian’s company, in a case of mistaken identity.

“It was a mistake,” said Bazzoni, who spoke to Reuters by phone from his restaurant in Verona on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Treasury Department backtracked and acknowledged its mistake, removing sanctions from AMG SAS Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C., as well as a graphic design company in Porto Torres, Italy.

A Treasury official said the department realized the companies were owned by someone other than the Bazzoni it blacklisted in January.

In 2019, the Trump administration increased sanctions on state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) as part of an effort to seek the removal of President Nicolás Maduro, whom it accuses of manipulating his 2018 re-election.

The Trump administration on its last day sanctioned a different Alessandro Bazzoni than the one accused of being linked to a network that tried to evade sanctions in the Venezuelan oil sector.

The Treasury also imposed measures on companies it said were linked to Bazzoni, including AMG SAS Di Alessandro Bazzoni & C., with the same address as the Dolce Gusto restaurant and pizzeria in Verona, Italy. Records show that Verona-based Bazzoni owns both companies.

“They solved the problem. I shouldn’t get involved anymore,” he said. “It was a mistake … fortunately everything was resolved in a couple of months,” he added.

SerigraphicLab also listed by OFAC, did not respond to requests for comment.

“At the end of the Trump administration there was a lot being done, really fast on Venezuela, Iran and China,” said Tim O’Toole, a sanctions specialist at the Miller & Chevalier law firm. “When you move so fast, you tend to make mistakes,” he added.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Luc Cohen and Phillip Stewart. Translated by Mayela Armas.)

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