WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday removed an Israeli holding company from a sanctions blacklist for trade with Iran, clarifying a step taken in May that cast a shadow over Israel's richest family.
Ofer Brothers Group had denied wrongdoing after it was included on a U.S. State Department sanctions list in May and accused of being part of a deal to sell Iranians a tanker for $8.65 million.
The State Department issued a note on Tuesday removing the Ofer Brothers Group from the list of sanctioned entities. It substituted two other firms indirectly owned by the Ofer conglomerate, one a corporate manager and the other a ship-owning company.
"This action clears our name," Ofer Holdings Group said in a statement.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. clarification was aimed at identifying more precisely those companies subject to U.S. sanction.
"The May 24 announcement of sanctions used the trade name 'Ofer Brothers Group,' which led to the conclusion by some banks and companies that we had intended to sanction all Ofer-owned companies," Nuland said, saying the United States only sought to sanction the specific entities involved in the tanker transfer.
She said the two newly-named companies under sanction, Societe Anonyme Monegasque d'Administration Maritime et Aerienne (SAMAMA) and Allvale Maritime Inc., had both pledged to prevent potentially sanctionable transactions with Iran in the future.
"The new measures underscore that companies in the shipping industry must exercise appropriate diligence to ensure they do not inadvertently engage in sanctionable activity with Iran," Nuland said in a statement.
The billionaire Ofer brothers had long denied wrongdoing, saying they did not realize the buyer had been a front for an Iranian company.
The Iranian company at the center of the allegations has also denied any involvement.
The May sanctions list included other companies such as PCCI, the Royal Oyster Group and Speedy Ship of the United Arab Emirates, Tanker Pacific of Singapore and Associated Shipbroking of Monaco.
The sanctions barred Ofer Brothers Group from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, from obtaining loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions and from receiving U.S. export licenses.
The Ofers are Israel's richest family. They control Israel Corp, one of Israel's largest investment companies. Brothers Sammy and Yuli Ofer have both died since the sanctions were announced.
(Editing by Eric Beech and Cynthia Osterman)