And yet now his bank accounts were blocked by U.S. sanctions that targeted him.
“I discovered that I ended up on the blacklist one morning two months ago in the bank, when I saw my checking accounts blocked,” Bazzoni told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday.
“I thought it was a joke. 'Look, it’s February 1st, not April 1st,” I said to the director, but it was all true,” he said.
The U.S. Treasury announced this week that it was removing the company linked to Bazzoni — a catering firm that shares an address with his pizza shop, Dolce Gusto — from its sanctions blacklist.
A design agency in Porto Torres, Italy, was also removed from the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN) without explanation, according to the statement on Wednesday.
For Bazzoni, the problem was a case of mistaken identity. The U.S. government had been interested in an Italian citizen named Alessandro Bazzoni, who they said had been a “core facilitator” of a network designed to help sanctioned Venezuelan state firm PDVSA sell crude oil.
But that Bazzoni was not the same Bazzoni as the Verona pizza shop owner. The 45-year-old restaurateur, already facing difficult times due to the pandemic, told Corriere della Sera that the blocking of his account could have been disastrous.
The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment, but an unnamed official told the Hill newspaper this week that names had been removed from the SDN list to “avoid inadvertently harming innocent parties.”
Use of targeted sanctions on individuals skyrocketed during the Trump administration, with the SDN list ballooning by an average of more than 1,000 names a year, according to an analysis by law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher — roughly double the average of the Obama administration.
Inclusion on the U.S. blacklist effectively means that American individuals and organizations are prohibited from doing business with you.
Given the wide reach of the U.S. financial system, this can have swift and severe consequences.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, sanctioned by the Trump administration last year in a move that drew widespread criticism, has said that she had bank accounts frozen and the assets of relatives temporarily blocked.
In his interview with Corriere della Sera this week, Bazzoni said he had been able to solve the problem himself by supplying the U.S. government with data and thanked the Biden administration for its help in resolving the issue.
“They didn’t apologize, but that’s not a problem. The important thing is that they removed my name from that list,” he said.