Lloyd's List is part of Maritime Intelligence

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited, registered in England and Wales with company number 13831625 and address c/o Hackwood Secretaries Limited, One Silk Street, London EC2Y 8HQ, United Kingdom. Lloyd’s List Intelligence is a trading name of Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited. Lloyd’s is the registered trademark of the Society Incorporated by the Lloyd’s Act 1871 by the name of Lloyd’s.

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use. For high-quality copies or electronic reprints for distribution to colleagues or customers, please call UK support at +44 (0)20 3377 3996 / APAC support at +65 6508 2430

Printed By


How a south London restaurateur became a nexus for sanctioned Iranian gas trades

Exclusive Lloyd’s List investigation reveals how the owner of an unassuming south London restaurant became the front for a fleet of ageing gas tankers used to ship hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of sanctioned propane and butane from Iran

Analysis of the ownership links behind an LPG tanker that exploded off the coast of Iran in August provides a rare glimpse into the workings of an operation designed to sidestep US sanctions on Iran through the use of front companies and deceptive shipping practices, much like the dark fleet of tankers shipping sanctioned oil

A FLEET of ageing liquefied petroleum gas carriers used to ship hundreds of millions of dollars worth of propane and butane from Iran has been tracked to a complex network of companies controlled on paper by the part-owner of a Georgian restaurant in south London.

A Lloyd’s List investigation has uncovered how corporate structures established for the fleet over the past decade helped sidestep US sanctions on Iran’s oil and petrochemical shipping sector. The paper trail also yields a rare glimpse into those behind the web of brass plate companies created to obfuscate the controlling interests of ships that routinely deployed deceptive shipping practices to carry sanctioned Iranian cargoes.

The investigation was sparked by an explosion on board a 51-year-old LPG tanker on August 10.

The Panama-flagged White Purl (IMO: 7230666) was anchored off the port of Assaluyeh in the southern province of Bushehr when the fire broke, but its Automatic Identification System signal showed it to be hundreds of miles to the southeast, near the island of Abu Musa — a tactic widely used by tankers violating sanctions known as ‘spoofing’.

The fire was later found to have been caused by an explosion in one of the compressors of the vessel during tank preparation. However, the incident revealed a complicated network of ownerships behind the veteran tanker that eventually led to Tamila Jmukhadze, a Georgian and UK national and part-owner of the Kartuli restaurant in East Dulwich, a swish neighbourhood in London.

Jmukhadze was president of Panama-based Taboga Maritime & Transport SA, the registered owner of White Purl from October 2021 until the vessel was scrapped last month following the fire in August.

According to Lloyd’s List’s analysis of sale and purchase documents, public access databases and a cache of leaked documents posted on the WikiIran website, Jmukhadze is also linked to 13 other gas carriers involved in shipping Iranian LPG via her control of numerous Panamanian companies.

Just as White Purl had been found spoofing its location, as evidenced by Lloyd’s List’s analysis of AIS data and satellite imagery compared with reported AIS positions, so did the rest of the fleet linked back to Jmukhadze.

Alongside spoofing, most of the gas carriers notionally controlled by Jmukhadze have been observed at various points over the past three years engaging in a range of deceptive and evasive shipping tactics also used by the dark fleet of tankers shipping Russian, Venezuelan and Iranian oil and oil products.

Lloyd’s List has not been able to establish whether Jmukhadze was simply a nominee for the actual beneficial owner of the fleet.

There is no suggestion that Jmukhadze, the restaurant, or any companies mentioned at any point have directly breached sanctions or were engaged in illegal activity.



However, the investigation does reveal how Jmukhadze, along with two other directors — Phati Sebua, and Bony Souza, an Indian national and UAE resident — were central to the complex series of corporate entities set up to allow this fleet to operate.

It also shows how Iranian gas exports have relied upon the willingness of flag states to support opaque structures behind shipping companies with apparently limited due diligence targeted at the ultimate beneficial ownership of assets and their operations.

“The involvement of a south London restaurateur in facilitating Iranian LPG shipments through a network of Panama-based companies, with seemingly little due diligence, highlights a critical loophole,” explained Claire Jungman who serves as chief of staff at the pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and tracks suspicious tanker trades.

“Panama’s continued role as a hub for these entities is extremely concerning, as it allows the diversion of funds from these illegal trades to support Iran’s terrorist proxies like Hamas. This situation emphasises the urgent need for stronger oversight and enforcement mechanisms to close these gaps in sanction implementations,” said Jungman.

All but one of the ships linked to Jmukhadze are flagged in Panama, and five ships were also investigated by Panama in 2020 for using such deceptive practices.

Sailing under the regulatory radar

Combining Lloyd’s List Intelligence data, satellite imagery, and data from UANI, Lloyd’s List analysis has identified at least 10 ships linked to Jmukhadze lifting Iranian cargoes while their AIS was switched off.

Jmukhadze’s companies spent $150m to amass a fleet of at least 14 elderly LPG carriers between 2018 and 2021. The initial purchases coincided with the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran’s oil and shipping sector.

At its peak, Jmukhadze-controlled companies were the registered owners of at least nine very large gas carriers, each capable of transporting 44,0000 tonne cargoes, as well as five smaller LPG carriers. All but five of Jmukhadze’s gas carriers have been sold since March 2022 to shell companies registered to an associate in Panamanian law firm Karnakis and Karnakis, which serves as the companies’ corporate agents, public records show. However, their trading activity remains largely unchanged, and they continue to deploy deceptive shipping practices.

WikiIran has published leaked emails from officials in the sanctioned Iranian petrochemical broker Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Commercial Company (PGPICC) that suggest the fleet shipped hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of LPG for the petrochemical giant. One 44,000 tonne cargo of propane and butane shipped on board the VLGC Gas Leader (IMO: 9114581) in August was priced at more than $30m, according to one of the invoices seen by Lloyd’s List.

Documents from WikiIran also show significant links between the LPG carriers and the PGPICC via complicated global corporate structures, alongside a series of deceptive and evasive shipping tactics during the period when Jmukhadze owned these ships.

Leaked demurrage invoices, for example, that were issued by shell companies but sent by PGPICC employees, imply that the Iranian petrochemical giant is the operator of at least some of these vessels.

The leaked documents underscore the elaborate and expansive nature of the scheme to keep the origin of the cargo and the true beneficial owners of the fleet hidden.

The opaque structures behind this LPG fleet have also raised concerns regarding safety and environmental risks, as witnessed by the explosion of the 51-year old White Purl. What is more, much of the oversight applied to this fleet is currently unknown.

Nearly all of the Jmukhadze-linked LPG fleet was until recently entered with Russian insurer Ingosstrakh, but coverage appears to have been withdrawn from all the ships after UANI contacted the insurer and alerted it that one of the vessels - Danuta I (IMO: 9193721) — participated in sanctioned Iranian trades.

Ingosstrakh also issued the White Purl’s blue cards, according to the Panama flag registry. However, the insurer said its policies are subject to “very strict and detailed” sanctions exclusion clause that effectively exclude coverage in Iranian waters or ports.

“A policy becomes null and void as soon as the vessel concerned is engaged in any activity that may violate applicable sanctions,” a spokesperson told Lloyd’s List.

“It might be difficult to comment on the terms of the contracts with specific clients due to certain legal constraints. However, based on the information provided [of the White Purl’s casualty], it is quite clear that it would be absolutely impossible to make any payout in connection with the mentioned incident as it cannot be covered under the terms of our policies.”

Ingosstrakh confirmed it withdrew coverage from a VLGC vessel called Danuta I but declined to comment on the specific details of contracts with its clients, past or present. It stated that it “operates in strict compliance with all applicable legislation, and follows strict internal compliance procedures. We regularly review the risks associated with our clients, using all available sources of information.”

Greece-based Phoenix Register of Shipping classed the vessel at the time of its casualty. Panama-based recognised organisation Overseas Marine Certification Services withdrew class from White Purl in 2020 due to non-compliance, Panama City-based chief executive Javier Bru told Lloyd’s List.

White Purl’s ISM manager since 2012 was Marine Shipping Line FZE, one of six UAE-based companies that exclusively managed the Jmukhadze-linked LPG fleet.

Marine Shipping Lines did not respond to an email request for comment, and a phone call went unanswered.

In addition to environmental concerns, vessels linked to the Jmukhadze fleet were involved in at least seven seafarer abandonment cases in 2022, largely related to unpaid wages, according to the International Labour Organisation’s database. Most of the 2022 cases were reported as resolved, but new ones were opened this year involving Gas Vision (IMO: 9115303), Gas Marta (IMO: 9307748), and Gas Zeus (IMO: 9267962). Most of the complaints occurred after the vessels were sold to companies registered to the Panamanian lawyer.

The associate from Karnakis and Karnakis did not respond to an email for comment on the identification of the ultimate beneficial owners of the vessels during and after the period Jmukhadze was linked to them.

White Purl

To understand those links it is necessary to track the history of White Purl before it exploded and how it came to be linked to an unassuming south London restaurant.

Until 2012, White Purl’s registered owner was the government-controlled National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). United Arab Emirates-based Caspian Petro Chemical FZE bought the vessel in 2012, when the EU first agreed to ban imports of Iranian oil, and the US expanded its threat of secondary sanctions on companies doing business with Iran.

A Lloyd’s List Intelligence credit report from 2012 raised strong suspicions that Caspian was beneficially owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and incorporated in Dubai solely to evade sanctions. At the time, Caspian’s management denied any association with the NITC.

In 2011, Caspian Petro Chemical FZE created a UK-incorporated company alongside the Dubai company, of the same name, “to co-ordinate foreign investment projects and relationship with UK and EU partners,” according to Companies House filings.

The secretary for this company was UK-based Phati Sebua, while Iranian national Seyed Asadoollah Emamjomeh was its managing director, filings show.

Caspian Petro Chemical sold the White Purl in 2012 to Liberia-incorporated Klaxon Maritime SA for $9.5m, sale and purchase documents show. Sebua approved the sale on behalf of both Caspian Petro Chemical and Klaxon.

In 2021, Taboga Maritime & Transport SA bought the White Purl for $3m from Klaxon. Jmukadze and Sebua approved the deal on behalf of Taboga and Klaxon, respectively.

Sebua also became the director of the new registered ownership company, Taboga Maritime & Trading SA, for which Jmukhadze was listed as president.

Jmukhadze described a Pati Sebua as her goddaughter in a social media post in 2020.

Phati Sebua is also listed as a director on at least eight other Panamanian companies linked to LPG carriers that ship Iranian-origin LPG, all of which are controlled by Jmukhadze.

Bony Souza also appears as director for several of these companies, documents show, although he is no longer a director in Taboga.

Documents leaked by WikiIran show that Bony Souza acted as a representative for several companies suspected as fronting for the PGPICC.

The PGPICC is the marketing arm of Iran’s petrochemical conglomerate Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Company (PGPIC). The US Office of Asset Control (Ofac) previously said the PGPIC accounted for half of all of Iran’s total petrochemical exports, generating the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars annually for the regime.

Ofac sanctioned PGPICC in July, 2019.

Souza was tasked with collecting guarantee checks on behalf of these companies — including Caspian, according to the documents, illuminating links between PGPICC, the Panamanian shell companies, and Jmukhadze.

Lloyd’s List linked Jmukhadze and her Panamanian entities with the UK Companies House filings that also name her as the director of UK-based Worldwide LPG Limited (incorporated in 2011) and Shoulder Bridge Limited (incorporated in 2005).

Jmukhadze’s London address on Shoulder Bridge’s filing matches the addresses listed for her, Sebua, and Souza in the Panamanian companies’ incorporation documents.

Jmukhadze became the sole shareholder of Worldwide LPG in December 2014 but passed control to Meisam Emamjomeh in March 2017. She remains a director.

Lloyd’s List could not establish whether the two Emamjomehs are related, but Caspian’s Seyed Asadoollah is 28 years older than Worldwide LPG’s Meisam.

It is not illegal for UK nationals to trade in Iranian oil or LPG, and Lloyd’s List is not suggesting that any of the people or companies, including Sebua, Souza, Jmukhadze, or Jmukhadze’s restaurant, Kartuli — where she became a director and shareholder last June — have broken any laws, or that the restaurant was involved in the LPG trades.

Sebua did not respond to emails sent to Caspian Petro Chemicals asking for comment. She did not respond to approaches on social media. A phone call to the company was not answered. Lloyd’s List has reached out to a Meisam Emamjomeh on Linkedin but did not receive a response. Souza did not respond to messages and a phone call. Seyed Asadoollah Emamjomeh could not be reached.

Complex corporate structures

Marine Shipping Line, which managed White Purl, also manages Kaisa I (IMO: 9038763), formerly known as Gas Amazon.

The 5,000 dwt LPG carrier was acquired in 2017 by Fanlight Shipping, a company where Sebua was secretary and treasurer until the Panama-incorporated company was suspended earlier this year.

The vessel was sold to Jmukhadze-controlled Zack Shipping in 2021.

The address listed for Sebua in documents disclosing her directorship in Fanlight in 2012 — a unit in the Jumeirah Business Center in Dubai — matches that of Pacific Petroline DMCC, based in Dubai. Petroline is one of the six managers of the 14 LPG carriers connected to Jmukhadze.

The ILO seafarer abandonment complaints say the vessels are from “the same principal in the UAE”.

Jmukhadze is also the president of Panamanian shell company Eltigre Maritime, the registered owner of the 1991-built, Iran-flagged suezmax Souzana (IMO: 8919154), which has not pinged its location since September 2019.

Emailed requests for comment to Caspian addressed to Emamjomeh and Sebua were not answered, and a phone call went unanswered as well.

Lloyd’s List has made several attempts to contact Tamila Jmukhadze.

Jmukhadze has declined to respond to emails sent to her personal address, or messages left at the restaurant over the past five weeks.

After reaching out to her via social media on November 9, Jmukhadze, who also uses the first name, Tamuna, blocked the reporter who contacted her.

Lloyd’s List could not find an email or phone number for Pacific Petroline DMCC.

This story has been updated with the White Purl’s blue cards issuer and class society.


Related Content


  • Related Vessels
  • Related Companies
  • UsernamePublicRestriction



    Ask The Analyst

    Please Note: You can also Click below Link for Ask the Analyst
    Ask The Analyst

    Your question has been successfully sent to the email address below and we will get back as soon as possible. my@email.address.

    All fields are required.

    Please make sure all fields are completed.

    Please make sure you have filled out all fields

    Please make sure you have filled out all fields

    Please enter a valid e-mail address

    Please enter a valid Phone Number

    Ask your question to our analysts