Mossad, Meir Dagan
Former head of Mossad Meir Dagan. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said on Monday that the coverage of the Ofer Brothers affair has been exaggerated and blown out of proportions.

The story broke last week when the U.S. State Department announced that sanctions had been imposed on the Ofer Brothers Group and Tanker Pacific because of their commercial dealings with Iran.

The violation occurred with the alleged sale of Raffles Park by the Ofer Brothers Group to Crystal Shipping, which in turn sold it to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines - IRISL.

For its part, the Ofer group said "we never sold ships to Iran, and the State of Israel's official and authorized bodies will confirm our statement." No official Israeli source has yet stepped forward to confirm this statement.

Sources close to the company say they have contacted the defense and foreign ministries to help them get the company off an American blacklist. But these statements could also not be confirmed by official Israeli sources.

The Defense Ministry made it clear that is it not dealing in any way with the issue, which is being handled by the Foreign Ministry. That ministry announced late last week that the government has no intention to intervene on behalf of the company.

The Prime Minister's Office denied Sunday the claim by the Ofer Brothers Group that its ships had been authorized by Israeli security sources to anchor in Iranian ports. The PMO said this claim "is not correct."

The U.S. State Department says the Ofer group should have checked for links between Iran and the company that bought the tanker. In this way, it could have avoided the transaction.

According to the border-control registers of Equasis, a major shipping information database, the tanker Raffles Park (now named Emma ), anchored in Iran several times in 2002, while owned by Tanker Pacific Management, an Ofer subsidiary.

The ships anchored in those ports starting in 2002, even though Iran is defined as an enemy state and any contact with it, including commercial dealings, is forbidden.

The issues currently being examined include whether the company violated UN Security Council resolutions in selling the tanker to a company that in retrospect was shown to have links with Iran, and whether it violated Israeli laws when company ships anchored in Iranian ports.