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Tillerson's Exxon violated Russian Federation sanctions, Treasury says

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left arrives in the prime minister's official residence to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo Japan Thursday

The Treasury Department has fined Exxon Mobil $2 million for violating Ukraine-related sanctions against Russian Federation - while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO.

In its announcement, the Treasury Department said USA subsidiaries of Exxon Mobil "dealt in services of an individual whose property and interests in property were blocked, namely, by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russian Federation with Igor Sechin". The Obama Administration had moved to block USA dealings with Sechin, Rosneft and other Russian officials amid Russia's military aggression in Ukraine. Hours after the fine was announced, the Texas-based company sued Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the government, saying the US had clearly told companies that doing business with Rosneft was allowed — just not with Sechin himself.

"Based on the Enforcement Information published today, OFAC is trying 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". BP CEO Bob Dudley, Exxon said, was allowed to keep working on Rosneft's board of directors alongside Sechin as long as he didn't deal with Sechin's personal business.

In a statement, Exxon countered that it had done nothing wrong and complained that the fine was "fundamentally unfair".

The Treasury Department said Exxon Mobil caused "significant harm" to the sanctions program.

Treasury stated that "ExxonMobil's senior-most executives knew of Sechin's status as an SDN when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin".

The U.S. said that the presidents of two Exxon's subsidiaries and Sechin had signed eight legal documents in May 2014.

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The documents, which Treasury said Exxon Mobil failed to "voluntarily self-disclose", were related to oil and gas projects in Russian Federation.

A photo posted on Rosneft's website shows Sechin and Duffin smiling broadly and shaking hands at a conference table with documents and a pen in front of them.

But while he was at Exxon, Tillerson opposed the sanctions levied on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea.

Sechin is the CEO of Russian state oil giant Rosneft and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tillerson said in 2014 that the company did not support sanctions because they are not effective "unless they are very well implemented". Tillerson stepped down as CEO of ExxonMobil in December 2016 to lead the Trump Administration's State Department.

The State Department directed further questions to Treasury and Exxon.

Mr. Tillerson, who has deep ties to Russian Federation and received an Order of Friendship from Moscow, left the firm to become U.S. Secretary of State.

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