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ExxonMobil launches legal challenge to finding it violated US sanctions against Russia

July 21, 1:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The dispute centers on ExxonMobil’s interactions with the Russian oil industry major Rosneft

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© AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

MOSCOW, July 20. /TASS/. ExxonMobil said on Thursday it has launched a legal action against the finding by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which claimed it violated U.S. anti-Russian sanctions in 2014.

ExxonMobil indicated that in 2014 it followed "authoritative and specific guidance from the Obama Administration that OFAC retroactively changed a year later."

"OFAC seeks to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today," ExxonMobil’s said in its filing in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, Texas.

The corporation said OFAC’s action was "fundamentally unfair".

The dispute centers on ExxonMobil’s interactions with the Russian oil industry major, OAO Rosneft, and with its CEO Igor Sechin.

"OFAC alleges that ExxonMobil violated sanctions when it signed certain documents in May 2014 that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by Sechin acting in his official capacity as a Rosneft executive," the corporation said. "OFAC has acknowledged that White House and Treasury Department officials repeatedly said sanctions involving Sechin applied only to his personal affairs and not to companies that he managed or represented."

ExxonMobil recalled that this position was confirmed on May 16, 2014, when a spokesperson for the Treasury Department said citing British Petroleum’s American CEO that the latter person had permission to take in Rosneft board meetings alongside with Sechin "(…) so long as the activity relates to Rosneft’s business and not to Sechin’s personal business."

"When Sechin was added to the sanctions list in April 2014, the White House and Treasury Department in numerous briefings and media reports specifically stated the sanctions applied to him in his individual capacity and with respect to his personal assets, and not the business he manages," the corporation said.

"ExxonMobil followed the clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russia with Rosneft - a non-blocked entity that were countersigned on behalf of Rosneft by Sechin in his official capacity," the press release said.

It added that at the time of the signing, those activities themselves were not under any direct sanction by the U.S. government.

"However, two months later, in July 2014, despite the White House and Treasury guidance that had already been given, OFAC contacted ExxonMobil to say it was still formulating its own policy," ExxonMobil said.

"Nearly a year later, in June 2015, OFAC notified ExxonMobil through a pre-penalty notice that it had violated guidance that had not been developed when the alleged offences took place," the corporation said. "The penalty notice was issued on July 20."

The penalty issued to ExxonMobil in connection with the alleged violation of the sanctions that the U.S. Administration imposed in Russia in the wake of developments in Ukraine totaled $ 2 million.

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