Archive for the ‘Armenia’ Category



Maybe the Hawaiian Vacation Wasn’t Such a Good Idea

Posted by at 3:34 pm on May 8, 2011
Category: ArmeniaCuba Sanctions

Balikbayan BoxJohn Dennis Tang Ong, a Philippine-born Canadian citizen residing in British Columbia, pleaded guilty in federal court last Thursday to charges that he and an accomplice in the Philippines had conspired to export M-4 rifle parts from the United States to the Philippines without a license. According to the indictment, Ong’s accomplice, Ronnell Rivera, a resident of the Philippines, had been communicating with a federal undercover agent in an attempt to purchase the rifle parts from the agent. The plan was that the agent would ship the parts to an address in the United States and that Ong would then arrange for the shipment from the United States to the Philippines. Ong paid for the rifle parts by wiring the purchase price from a bank in the state of Washington to one in Atlanta, Georgia.

At Rivera’s request, Ong sent him an email that provided an address in the state of Washington to which the undercover agent could ship the parts. When the agent was reluctant to ship the parts to that address, Ong suggested, in another email, that the items should be sent by “balikbayan box.”

Although the indictment states, rather comically, that “balikbayan box” is a “freight forwarding company” it is, instead, as the name might suggest, a type of box. The box in question is a corrugated cardboard box of particular dimensions used by expatriate Philippines to send a number of small gifts packed together back to their family in the Philippines. Typically, the boxes are given to freight forwarding companies that specialize in putting these boxes on container ships for cheap, if slow, shipment to the Philippines and then delivering them to the addressees once they arrive. Ong allegedly also noted to Rivera that balikbayan box shippers rarely asked for identification from the shipper.

Ong and Rivera agreed on this plan, so Ong sent an email to Rivera with the address of a balikbayan box shipping company in Atlanta, Georgia, along with the specific dimensions and packing instructions for such a shipment. Rivera then forwarded this information to the undercover agent. Nine months later, Ong was arrested when he arrived in Hawaii for a vacation.

Although the indictment states that Ong traveled to the United States from time to time to arrange for exports from the United States to the Philippines, there are no allegations in the indictment that any of the activities at issue in the indictment occurred in the United States. It seems that instead all activities relating to this export by Ong occurred while he was in British Columbia. There seems a good chance that Canada would not have recognized that the U.S. had jurisdiction over Ong or permitted his extradition. In retrospect, Ong probably regrets his choice of Hawaii as a vacation spot.

After Ong’s guilty plea, Ong and the government stipulated to a judicial order of his removal to Canada, which means that his only incarceration will likely be time already served. His co-defendant Rivera is, as they say, still at large. He’s probably not thinking about a vacation in the United States. Ever.

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Copyright © 2011 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Wikileaks: Armenia Threatened with Sanctions after Iran Arms Deal

Posted by at 10:22 pm on November 29, 2010
Category: ArmeniaArms ExportSanctionsWassenaar

Serzh Sarkisian
ABOVE: Armenian President Serzh

According to one of the Wikileak cables published by the Guardian, Armenia, in 2003, sold machine guns and rockets to Iran which were later used in a fatal attack on U.S. forces in Iraq by Shia militants. Secretary Rice discussed this with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, who denied any involvement in the arms transfer.

In December 2008 the State Department sent a letter to Sarkisian threatening U.S. sanctions on Armenia unless Armenia signed a written agreement that it would undertake certain specified steps to prevent further arms transfers to Iran or other terrorist states. Those steps were to include:

  • Adopt the Wassenaar Arrangement control lists
  • Ensure that Armenian-based brokers aren’t involved in arms transfers
  • Accept periodic unannounced inspections by the United States
  • Consult with the United States on all arms transfers to countries that are not members of NATO, the E.U., or the Wassenaar Arrangement.

There is no indication that Armenia entered into such an agreement other than, of course, the absence of current U.S. sanctions against Armenia.

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Copyright © 2010 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)