It’s just another Halliburton oil and gas operation. The company name is emblazoned everywhere: On trucks, equipment, large storage silos and workers’ uniforms.
But this isn’t Texas. It’s Iran. U.S. companies aren’t supposed to do business here.
Yet, in January, Halliburton won a contract to drill at a huge Iranian gas field called Pars, which an Iranian government spokesman said “served the interests” of Iran.
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Still, Halliburton stands out because its operations in Iran are now under a federal criminal investigation. Government sources say the focus is on whether the company set out to illegally evade the sanctions imposed ten years ago.
“I am formally announcing my intention to cut off all trade and investment with Iran,” announced President Bill Clinton in 1995.
Sources close to the Halliburton investigation tell NBC News that after that announcement, Halliburton decided that business with Iran, then conducted through at least five companies, would all be done through a subsidiary incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
“It’s gotten around the sanctions and the very spirit and reasons for the sanctions,” says Victor Comras, a former State Department expert on sanctions.
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Halliburton says it is unfairly targeted because of politics, but recently announced it is pulling out of Iran because the business environment “is not conducive to our overall strategies and objectives.”
However, that exit will be slow. Halliburton announced it was leaving Iran only three weeks after Iran announced the lucrative new gas deal, which industry sources say will take three years to complete.