‘Momentous error’: Italian businessman mistakenly blacklisted by Trump to sue | US foreign policy


A small business owner in Italy is preparing to sue the US Treasury after accidentally being put on a sanctions blacklist before Donald Trump left the presidency.

Alessandro Bazzoni, who owns a graphic design company in Sardinia, has been unable to trade since 19 January, when his business was slapped with sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on blacklisted Venezuelan crude oil.

In a case of mistaken identity, the US Treasury erroneously blacklisted Bazzoni’s graphic design company, SeriGraphicLab, along with a restaurant and pizzeria in Verona owned by another businessman called Alessandro Bazzoni. Both were removed from the blacklist on 31 March. But while the restaurant owner’s bank account has been reactivated, the blunder led to the Sardinian businessman’s account being closed.

“It was a momentous error on their part, and one that is having serious implications as it is preventing me from working,” he said.

Bazzoni, who works independently, was able to withdraw the money that was in his account but can no longer trade because, as per Italian law, he needs a bank account in order to receive payments from clients. The absence of a bank account also means he can’t access the financial support he is entitled to receive as part of the Italian government’s Covid-19 relief scheme.

“I have to go to another bank to see if I can open an account there,” he said. “But for now, I cannot sufficiently operate my business, so much so I have started to look for other jobs.”

Bazzoni claims the US Treasury did not notify him about being on the sanctions blacklist, nor did it apologise for the mistake.

“The only notification I got was from my bank telling me my account was closing,” he added.

He has made a legal complaint to the Italian police, with the aim of suing the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a unit of the US Treasury.

In 2019, Trump’s government imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), in an attempt to force the resignation of the president, Nicolás Maduro, whom the US accused of corruption, human rights violations and rigging his 2018 re-election. On his last day in office, Trump sanctioned a network of oil firms and individuals tied to PDVSA.

A Treasury official told Reuters that the department realised the companies were owned by different individuals than the Bazzoni it blacklisted in January.

The Guardian has contacted the Treasury for a response to the Sardinian businessman’s case. “First and foremost, I want an apology,” said Bazzoni.

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