Archive for the ‘Criminal Penalties’ Category


Mar

8

Did Undercover Agent Give Legal Lecture to Defendant on Export Law or Not?


Posted by at 10:07 am on March 8, 2017
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTC

Kolar Rahman Mug Shot
ABOVE: Kolar Rahman

Several law enforcement officials have said to me that what often makes their jobs so easy is that many criminals are several forks short of a kitchen utensil drawer.   With that in mind, we bring you the story of Kolar Rahman Anees Ur Rahman, who, if the criminal complaint is to be believed, was pretty stupid.  But maybe not.  You decide.

Mr. Rahman is an Indian national living in the UAE who just received five years probation in connection with a scheme to ship sniper rifles to Belarus. After an associate of Rahman’s contacted a gun manufacturer in the United States with a request to buy guns for Belarus, a federal undercover agent got in contact with Rahman in the UAE to continue the purchase negotiations. The undercover (or UCA in fedspeak) lured Rahman to Chicago, which was Rahman’s second mistake, the first of course having been trying to ship rifles from the US to Belarus in the first place.

Now what follows as described in the criminal complaint is astonishing, if true:

The UCA reminded RAHMAN that all of the .308 Caliber sniper rifles are export controlled in the U.S. by ITAR and could not be exported to certain countries without a license. The UCA reminded RAHMAN, due to the policy of denial in place by the U.S. government against Belarus, that it was not possible to obtain the required export licenses needed to legally export the .308 Caliber sniper rifles. The UCA explained that in order to export the firearms, they would need to make misrepresentations on the paperwork as to where the rifles would be shipped. RAHMAN informed the UCA he understood and still wanted to continue with their business transaction. The UCA informed RAHMAN he wanted to make sure RAHMAN understood the risks and that they would both go to jail if they were caught illegally exporting the rifles and ammunition. RAHMAN informed the UCA he understood the risk and that he desired to complete their business transaction as planned.

Seriously? This lengthy lecture on the law didn’t set off alarm bells, warning signals, blaring sirens, flashing lights and abject fear in Rahman? What real criminal ever gives a lengthy lecture to his associates about criminal law before embarking on the planned conduct? “Hey, Rufus, ya know robbing banks is illegal, right? And if we carry guns the penalty is increased to 30 to life? If we do this, we can both go to jail for at least thirty years or more. You know that, right? Speak up. I can’t hear ya. Okay, so you are absolutely, positively certain without any equivocation that you still want to rob this bank and you’re doing so of your own free will even though you might wind up in jail for a very long time? Don’t nod, Rufus, I need to hear you say yes.”

The UCA, if he in fact said all this, was making sure he could establish the necessary criminal intent for an export violation. This is critical where an Indian national living in the UAE might not know the ins and outs of U.S. export laws or about the U.S. arms embargo on Belarus. (I bet even a bunch of Americans don’t know about the Belarus embargo.) But you have to wonder why Rahman when (and if) he got this five-minute spiel on U.S. law didn’t run out the door of the hotel room in Chicago and hop on the next flight back to the UAE.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Dec

2

Prosecutors’ Flood of Crocodile Tears Drown the Wind


Posted by at 8:43 am on December 2, 2016
Category: Criminal PenaltiesIran SanctionsOFAC

Reza Zarrab via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/reza.zarrab.9 [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Reza Zarrab

This blog recently reported on the Iran sanctions case against Reza Zarrab in which Judge Berman misread and misquoted the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to hold that the United States has criminal jurisdiction over anyone on the planet who touches a dollar bill or, more accurately, knows that someone else anywhere on the planet might touch a dollar bill. Recently, the prosecution requested a Curcio hearing seeking to disqualify Zarrab’s lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis because they also represent banks that were involved, albeit without knowledge, in the wire transfers to Iran at issue.

A Curcio hearing is one where the prosecution, overcome with a flood of crocodile tears and concern for the defendant, seeks to assure that the defendant receives effective representation of counsel from a lawyer free of any conflict. The irony is that prosecution’s goal is to deprive the defendant of counsel of choice and throw him or her into the arms of brand new counsel all, of course, in the name of protecting the defendant. A further irony here is that Zarrab is represented by top-notch lawyers at Kirkland and that everyone — all the banks and Zarrab —  consented to Kirkland’s representation of Zarrab.

But the real kicker here is the breathtakingly terrible argument that the prosecutors use in their request for a Curcio hearing — namely that the banks are “victims” of Zarrab’s offense:

K&E’s simultaneous representation of Zarrab and at least two victims in this matter,
Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, presents a conflict. The Government has charged Zarrab with defrauding these and other financial institutions by duping them into processing financial transactions that they would not otherwise have engaged in, and in doing so, exposing them to the possibility of substantial harm.

This argument falls apart after only a moment’s scrutiny. The banks at issue either knew that the transactions they processed were destined for Iran or they did not. If they knew, they were co-conspirators and not victims. If they did not know, they did not do anything wrong by processing the transactions and were not victims. And the fact that they are not being fined or prosecuted in this case makes clear that they did not know, that they weren’t exposed to the possibility of harm, that they did not suffer any actual harm, and that they weren’t victims in any sense in which normal people use that word.

An additional problem with this “victim” argument is that, as with any statute or rule protecting the foreign policy interests of the United States, the actual victims of violations of such statutes are the citizens of the United States.  In that case, the only lawyer who could possibly represent Zarrab is a lawyer whose only client is Zarrab and who has not ever represented any U.S. citizens.   For as much as the prosecution might welcome having Zarrab represented by a sole practitioner from a small village in Turkmenistan, I doubt that there are many others who think that might be an acceptable outcome.

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Nov

30

Maybe There’s a Good Idea Lurking in Tom Fox’s Stealth Advertorial


Posted by at 4:44 pm on November 30, 2016
Category: BISCivil PenaltiesCompliance Programs and ProceduresCriminal PenaltiesDDTCFCPAOFAC

Internet Email by twitter.com/mattwi1s0n [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/75rLY [cropped and processed]

Over at the excellent FCPA Compliance & Ethics Blog, Tom Fox has a plug for email monitoring software disguised as a blog post.  He’s even doing a “webinar” with the software developers — completely free, of course —  presumably to push the sales of this product.

Notwithstanding what might not be his completely objective take on this software product, Fox raises a good issue that might warrant consideration for incorporation into your export compliance program.  I assume everyone reading my blog and this post is acutely aware that a robust compliance plan is the best insurance against getting taken to the cleaners by the DoJ and the export agencies after it is discovered that an employee in your Hamburg office has been shipping  your U.S. origin night vision to Iran.  But what does your compliance program do proactively to ferret out such problems?  Fox suggests that companies should consider periodic email sweeps for keywords

The concept is straightforward; at regular intervals you can sweep through your company email database for identified key words that can be flagged for further investigation, if required.

So, should you consider sweeping all emails for keywords such as “Iran” or “Syria”? What other keywords might help pinpoint export compliance problems? “Jail”? “Orange Jumpsuit”? “Export License,” as in “let’s avoid fussing with that stupid export license requirement”? Are there keywords that can identify times when employees say something like “Call me, since we shouldn’t put this in writing”?

While I think such an approach is a nice shiny bauble that can be dangled in front of prosecutors and enforcement agencies and therefore is worth considering, I also wonder whether such sweeps will actually be effective in detecting violations. First, in my experience, most of the problems come from sales employees outside the United States who don’t think U.S. laws should interfere with their commissions. Foreign privacy laws, particularly in the E.U., often pose barriers to rifling through foreign employees’ emails. Second, in my experience, employees, particularly those with mischief in their hearts, are much too savvy to talk openly in emails about their transshipment schemes. They almost always use code of some kind to conceal what they are up to. These employees and their code words are normally not clever enough to fool prosecutors, but those code words — like “the country we discussed” or “Middle Earth” — will easily evade keyword email sweeps.

Any thoughts on this? Share your experiences (anonymously if you wish) in the comments section.

Photo Credit: Internet Email by twitter.com/mattwi1s0n [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/75rLY [cropped and processed]. Copyright 2003 twitter.com/mattwi1s0n

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Oct

21

Court Holds US Can Jail Anyone Anywhere for Dollar Based Transactions


Posted by at 7:58 am on October 21, 2016
Category: Criminal PenaltiesIran SanctionsOFAC

Reza Zarrab via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/reza.zarrab.9 [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Reza Zarrab

I often joke about the number of foreigners who arrive in the United States with their families hoping to see Mickey Mouse but who wind up seeing Elliot Ness and a jail cell instead. Controversial Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab showed up in Miami on March 19 of this year to take his wife and daughter to Disneyland and was arrested at the airport.  His application for bail was denied, and he is still languishing in jail, despite having retained fifteen lawyers from top-flight law firms.

Zarrab is accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran by processing payments through his financial network for companies in Iran.   His dream team of lawyers sought to dismiss the indictment, arguing that U.S. sanctions could not reach a foreign citizen requesting foreign banks to send money from foreign citizens to persons in Iran. Judge Berman, writing for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, just issued an opinion disagreeing with the defendant’s claim and asserting that the United States could prosecute anyone anywhere in the world engaged in any transactions involving U.S. Dollars.

There are two questions here, one much easier than the other.   The first is whether the Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations prohibit this conduct.   The court held, and probably rightly so, that since dollar-based transactions were involved, the transactions ran afoul of the prohibition in the regulations against the export of services from the United States to Iran.  Clearly, if a U.S. bank was used to clear the dollar transaction, there is a good argument that financial services were exported from the United States to Iran in violation of the prohibition in section 560.204 on the export of services from the United States to Iran.

The second and harder question is whether Congress, when it passed the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, under which the regulations were promulgated and which establishes criminal penalties for violations of those regulations, intended to reach extraterritorial conduct. And on this issue, Judge Berman reaches the conclusion that Congress intended in IEEPA intended to criminalize any conduct involving U.S. dollars but he does so by misquoting the relevant statutory provision:

50 U.S.C. § 1702(a)(l)(B) grants the President broad powers, including the power to
“investigate, block during the pendency of an investigation, regulate, direct and compel … any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest … subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Except here is what the statute really says with the omitted portions bolded and the significant provisions underlined:

investigate, block during the pendency of an investigation, regulate, direct and compel, nullify, void, prevent or prohibit, any acquisition, holding, withholding, use, transfer, withdrawal, transportation, importation or exportation of, or dealing in, or exercising any right, power, or privilege with respect to, or transactions involving, any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States

The significance of Judge Berman’s misquotation is that he omits a significant qualification regarding “property subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” The actual language gives the President the power “with respect to, or transactions involving,” property in which a foreign national has an interest but omits the power with respect to “transactions involving” property “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” This is significant because Congress’s omission of “transactions involving” underlines the common understanding that Congress granted authority to block such property but did not go so far as to assert that it can criminalize foreign conduct by foreign persons that could be characterized as “transactions involving” such property.

NOTE:  My apologies for the sporadic posting but anyone who knows me knows that I am a die-hard Cubs fan, meaning that I’ve been up late, way too late, watching baseball games.  These games, as you may know, have run so late into the night in large part because pitchers (we’re looking at you Pedro Baez!) are blithely ignoring the never-enforced 12-second rule and are taking the time it takes for Watson to break a 256-bit AES cipher between pitches.  Once baseball finishes up for the season, I’ll be back to a more regular schedule.

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Oct

12

DOJ to Exporters: Confession Is Good for the Soul


Posted by at 9:40 pm on October 12, 2016
Category: BISCriminal PenaltiesDDTCOFACVoluntary Disclosures

Department of Justice by Ryan J. Reilly [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/76Kjf9 [cropped]Apparently the National Security Division at DOJ had a bunch of interns this summer with nothing to do, because this is the only conceivable explanation for the mostly risible “Guidance Regarding Voluntary Disclosures” which the NSD released on October 2. To set the tone for a further discussion of the substance of this Guidance, let’s start with a howler in the Guidance itself. Even if this guidance was written in large part, as it must have been, by eager interns, one would think that a grown-up lawyer would have reviewed this for substance. And, presumably, that grown-up lawyer whose job is to send real people to real jails would understand the laws that he or she is enforcing, right? So how do you explain this statement in the Guidance?

U.S. sanctions regimes and the Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations are currently enforced through IEEPA.

Apparently, no one in the NSD has ever heard of the Trading with the Enemies Act which, as most of this blog’s faithful readers will know, is the statutory basis for the Cuba sanctions and their enforcement.  This is pretty embarrassing mistake about pretty elementary facts.

The thrust of the Guidance is an interagency power grab by which DOJ wants to take away the first responsibility for review of voluntary disclosures from OFAC, DDTC and BIS. The guidance states that voluntary disclosures should be made to the Counterintelligence and Export Section of NSD when the exporter learns that a violation “may have been willful.” Specifically, the Guidance says:

Ordinarily, when an organization voluntarily self-discloses violations of U.S. export controls and sanctions, it presents its VSD to the appropriate regulatory agency under the procedures set forth in the agency’s regulations. … It is not the purpose of this Guidance to alter that practice. However, as discussed further below, when an organization, including its counsel, becomes aware that the violations may have been willful, it should within a reasonably prompt time also submit a VSD to CES.

Actually the purpose is precisely to alter that practice. Remember that the criminal violations involved are violations of the agency regulations themselves. That gives the relevant agencies, and not the DOJ, the principal expertise in determining if a violation has occurred and if it was willful.

The practice until now has been to disclose violations to the relevant agency or agencies with the understanding that the agencies could, if warranted, refer the matter to the DOJ. Once the referral was made,  the prior agency disclosure and continued cooperation with the DOJ investigation would be the basis for credit by the DOJ. No longer. A separate disclosure to DOJ must be made without regard to an agency referral and, if not, the agency disclosure becomes irrelevant to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion if a subsequent referral occurs.

One of the hypotheticals discussed in the Guidance provides ample reason as to why DOJ, which clearly does not understand many of the basics of export control law, should not be usurping the primary role of OFAC, BIS, and DDTC, in export enforcement. In that hypothetical a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. corporation exports U.S. origin items in violation of BIS regulations. Without any suggestion of U.S. participation, the Guidance suggests that the parent would be offered an NPA by DOJ premised on payment of a criminal fine.

However, BIS rules, which have to be the basis of any prosecution in such a case, do not support a theory of vicarious liability by parent corporations. If the parent company did not export the items it could only be held liable, under section 764.2, for causing, aiding or abetting the export. That’s why in the recent Alcon Laboratories case, BIS held the U.S. parent liable for its exports to Iran but not for the exports of its Swiss subsidiary; those exports served only as a basis for a penalty against the Swiss subsidiary.

One last knee-slapper from the Guidance deserves mention. In another hypothetical, the Guidance says this:

Alert customs officers notice a bulky package within a container on a ship at a U.S. port bound to leave on a lengthy voyage overseas. The package contains ITAR-controlled commodities …

Because, you see, all bulky packages are suspicious and probably contain export controlled items. Just remember that when you send a birthday present to your aunt in Slovenia — make sure its just a small package in order to avoid scrutiny by CBP on the way out.

Photo Credit: Department of Justice by Ryan J. Reilly [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/76Kjf9 [cropped]. Copyright 2009 Ryan J. Reilly

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)