Archive for the ‘Iran Sanctions’ Category


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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Nov

18

Friday Grab Bag


Posted by at 4:41 pm on November 18, 2016
Category: BISIran SanctionsOFACSyria

Grab BagHere are a few recent developments that you may have missed:

  • The House voted yesterday to nullify the impact of a license granted by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) in September which would allow Boeing to sell civil aircraft to Iran.
  • On Tuesday the House passed a bill to extend the Iran Sanctions Act for another 10 years. The bill, weighing in at around 50 words, makes no changes to the Act beyond extending its expiration date.
  • The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016 was passed by the House on Wednesday. Named after the alias of a military photographer who has taken pictures of the conflict in Syria, the act would require blocking of foreign persons, including presumably the Russians, who provide “significant” support to the Government of Syria or the Central Bank of Syria. It will be interesting to see how this plays out if the new Administration carries out its apparent desire to cooperate with Russia in Syria. Although Russia is fighting ISIS there, it is also supporting the current Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
  • The temporary general license granted by the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) to permit exports to ZTE notwithstanding its inclusion on the Entity Listwas extended by BIS today until February 27, 2017. ZTE was put on the Entity List after it diverted U.S.-origin goods to Iran.
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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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Sep

13

Flowers for Ahmadinejad


Posted by at 9:25 pm on September 13, 2016
Category: Iran SanctionsOFAC

Sorbet Autumn Select Mix Viola via http://photolibrary.ballhort.com:8085/pasapprovedimages/api/v1/asset/319358/preview [Fair Use]The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) today fined a company a whopping $4,320,000 for selling things to Iran. Oh wow, you say, this must have been some really bad stuff like, say, high-powered computers or drones, right? Yep, really dangerous stuff — flower seeds. As in, the things you bury in your backyard and hope sprout up as zinnias.

Well, okay, so maybe they didn’t sell anything dangerous. The company, which is PanAmerican Seed in Illinois, must have sold like a billion dollars worth of seeds, right? Um, we don’t know the value of the seeds. For some reason OFAC won’t say. This is odd because OFAC almost always says what the value of the shipments was. OFAC does say something surpassingly strange about the dollars involved, something it’s never said before. In aggravating factor 4, OFAC says this:

PanAm Seed engaged in this pattern of conduct over a period of years, providing over $770,000 in economic benefit to Iran.

Now this is definitively not the value of the shipment. If $770,000 was the price of the exported goods, then PanAmerican which, presumably, was paid for the seeds by people in Iran, got the $770,000 benefit, or at least however much of that price represented its profit. I suppose this means the profit Iranians made after planting the seeds and selling the flowers, although how OFAC figured that out is rather hard to discern. And if the profits made by Iranian on the seeds is the economic benefit to Iran, then the value of the shipments had to be well south of that figure.

Why OFAC would go to such length to obfuscate the value of the shipments is unclear. Leaving aside that we are talking about petunia seeds here, PanAmerican Seed, at least if OFAC is to be believed, did not behave well. Apparently, it knew what it was doing; it concealed the ultimate destination of the shipments; it refused to cooperate with OFAC when it was turned in; and it apparently provided “inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete” information to OFAC

In any event, it still seems that OFAC has better things to do than to tiptoe through the tulips in Tehran.

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

Jun

28

ZTE Gets Last Minute Reprieve (Sort Of)


Posted by at 10:33 pm on June 28, 2016
Category: BISChinaEntity ListIran Sanctions

ZTE Stand 6 via http://www.zte.com.cn/cn/events/ces2013/show/201301/t20130110_381605.html [Fair Use]The Bureau of Industry and Security today announced that it was extending the Temporary General License which permitted exports to ZTE from June 30 all the way to August 30. ZTE, as this blog reported here, was placed on the Entity List because of elaborate shenanigans by the company by which it bought U.S. goods and resold them to Iran.

Two weeks after bringing the ban hammer down on ZTE, BIS issued a temporary general license which covered March 24 to June 30, more than three months. The new temporary license expires on August 30, one day short of two months from June 30. Why this temporary license is shorter than the previous one was not disclosed but one can only suspect that ZTE may not be minding its manners in the way that BIS would like to see.

The problem for U.S. exporters is that such a short license, with the real possibility, given its shortened length, that it may not be renewed beyond August 30, opens up the possibility that the exporter will sell items to ZTE that it may not later be able to service even though the warranty on those items is still in force. If the temporary general license is not renewed and ZTE stays on the list, the ability of the U.S. exporter to send replacement parts to ZTE or, alternatively, to repair the item in the United States and return it to ZTE will be in question. It would not surprise me if the temporary general license does not get much use.

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