U.K. Tribunal Rules That Export Agency Can Keep Iran Licenses Secret

Posted by at 5:00 pm on September 22, 2011
Category: Foreign Export ControlsIran Sanctions

Mahmoud AhmadinejadThis blog reported earlier on a lawsuit brought by Bloomberg Business Week against the U.K. Export Control Organization (“ECO”) which had rejected a request by Bloomberg to release information on licenses the ECO had granted to permit U.K. companies to export dual-use materials to Iran. The United Kingdom complies with U.N. sanctions and does not allow export of arms and materiel to Iran but does allow licensed export of dual-use goods listed on the Wassenaar list to Iran.

The ECO argued that disclosure of these names could cause these companies to lose their ability to use U.S. commercial banking facilities, and the Tribunal, saying the the possibility of U.S. meddling was “disturbing,” agreed:

There is a significant public interest in protecting large and small firms, which trade lawfully and legitimately, from economic harm from a form of embargo imposed by banks, competitors, suppliers, clients and possibly foreign governments. … The tribunal felt some concern at the prospect of a U.K. company, trading quite lawfully in terms of U.K., EU and international law, suffering possibly fatal commercial damage through the extraterritorial intervention of our closest ally.

Bloomberg‘s editor Matthew Winkler objected to the tribunal’s ruling, noting that the tribunal relied on “secret evidence” asserting that “banks will withdraw funding for companies if the public knew who is doing business with whom.”


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Copyright © 2011 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Good for the ECO! It’s always nice to see a little “tit-for-tat” between fellow sovereigns… Gives the rest of us hope that our efforts to argue for sanity in the application of U.S. sanctions regs are not completely futile.

Comment by Jeroop on September 23rd, 2011 @ 6:52 am

This, in my opinion, sets a bad precedent for the disclosure of this information. I would think that the people of the UK would like to know if UK companies are actually abiding by the export rules in place and not just trust that the government is making the right decisions.

Comment by Mark on September 26th, 2011 @ 12:31 am