Reliance gets former Biden aide Ankit Desai to lobby for lifting Venezuelan oil import ban

A Reliance Industries Ltd. oil tanker truck | Representational image| Photo: Dhiraj Singh | Bloomberg

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An aide who worked for Joe Biden when he was a senator has been hired to lobby for Indian refiner Reliance Industries Ltd. as it seeks to have restrictions eased on importing Venezuelan oil.

Ankit Desai will work as a subcontractor to law firm Eversheds Sutherland US LLC, which represents Reliance in matters related to Venezuelan sanctions imposed during the Trump administration, according to person with knowledge of the situation. Reliance is seeking to resume imports of Venezuelan oil in exchange for supplying diesel.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA engaged in so-called diesel swaps with Mumbai-based Reliance, Spain’s Repsol SA and Italy’s Eni SpA until October 2020, when the transactions were banned as the Trump administration sought to put more pressure on President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

The swaps were seen as a way to address the nation’s humanitarian crisis because diesel is used in agriculture, public transportation and to move food and medicine. In a departure from the Trump administration, President Biden has signaled he may seek a negotiated solution to end the crisis in the Latin American country, which has been plagued by hyperinflation, lack of food and fuels and a refugee crisis.

Reliance didn’t immediately return email seeking comment. Desai worked for Biden in 2005 and later worked for private firms, including energy companies Cheniere Energy Inc and Tellurian Inc, according to his LinkedIn page. He didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

After sanctions cut off Caracas’s access to U.S. refiners, PDVSA started selling oil to little-known companies that have used a variety of methods to make detection difficult, such as turning off vessel transponders to disguise their presence in Venezuela.

The news on Desai was first reported by Politico. –Bloomberg

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