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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Mar

6

Penn Senate Rum Runners Eye Cuban Rum


Posted by at 5:58 pm on March 6, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Havana Club on the Road to Havana by Richard Smallbone [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/nxC2Pr [cropped and processed]A story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and not, I swear, in The Onion) reveals that a bunch of Pennsylvania state legislators flew off to Cuba where they concocted this genius plan. Step 1: ship boatloads of rum from Cuba to state liquor stores in Pennsylvania without an OFAC license and in defiance of the embargo. Step 2: argue that Pennsylvania can simply ignore the embargo and import all the rum it wants for ever and ever because of Clause 2 of the Twenty-First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Seriously. (The esteemed University of Pennsylvania Law School is reportedly so embarrassed by the legal reasoning of its local legislators that it packed up in the middle of the night and relocated to the recently vacated Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.)

If you just clicked on the above link to the Twenty-First Amendment, you are probably pretty confused as to how anyone, state senators included, could argue that this clause allows a state to import Cuban rum in violation of the Cuban embargo. After all, it reads:

The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

It seems clear from the language and the history of Clause 2 that it was designed to allow states, if they wanted, to remain dry and regulate the sale of liquor in their own states. Mississippi, bless its heart, stayed dry until 1966. Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987. (Useful trivia: the reason Dorothy said to Toto, after landing in Oz, that they weren’t in Kansas any more was because she saw a bar.)

The clause has been read to give states the right to regulate the importation of liquor from other states by imposing taxes that would otherwise violate the Commerce Clause. But the courts have pretty much stopped there, with Craig v. Boren holding that Clause 2 did not permit states to set different drinking ages for men and women and California Liquor Dealers v. Midcal Aluminum holding that Clause 2 did not override the federal Sherman Act.

All that being said, nothing in Clause 2 which allows states to restrict importation and sale of liquor to their hearts’ content also allows states to import liquor in violation of federal law.  It says that imports prohibited by state law are prohibited, not that imports permitted by state law are permitted.  Morever, even if it did, the embargo would still apply.  If Clause 2 doesn’t trump the Sherman Act, it certainly doesn’t trump the Trading with the Enemy Act or Helms-Burton.

Moral of the story: legal theories concocted after long afternoons of daiquiris and mojitos in Havana will not likely survive judicial scrutiny.

Photo Credit: Havana Club on the Road to Havana by Richard Smallbone [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/nxC2Pr [cropped and processed]. Copyright 2013 Richard Smallbone

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



Mar

1

Assassination In Malaysia Leads To Calls to Redesignate DPRK As A Terrorist State


Posted by at 9:14 pm on March 1, 2017
Category: BISDDTCNorth Korea Sanctions

Kim Jong Un Smoking via KCNA [Fair Use]The assassination by the Norks of Kim Jong Un’s brother in a Malaysian airport with the help of gullible stooges and some VX nerve agent has reignited the debate as to whether the State Department should redesignate the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism. The DPRK was first put in the list after it bombed a Korean Air Flight in 1987, killing 115 people. The country was removed in 2008 in return for shutting down its plutonium plant and permitting inspections.

In order to designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, a determination must be made that the country “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” See, e.g., section 6(j) of the (zombie) Export Administration Act. None of the statutes that invoke that phrase define “acts of international terrorism,” although section 40(d) of the Arms Export Control Act states that the term includes activities that “aid or abet the efforts of an individual or group to use … chemical, biological, or radiological weapons.” I suppose that might cover the murder of an individual with a chemical weapon in an airport, although terrorism seems more readily to mean an act that indiscriminately targets multiple civilians in order to instill fear in a population or community.

Advocates of redesignation have argued that the cyber attack on Sony (in connection with its distribution of the hilarious and decidedly anti-Nork film The Interview) and other assassinations abroad demonstrate repeated acts of terrorism. But again, it’s hard to argue that these acts, while reprehensible, are designed to instill fear in a community.

In any event, the redesignation would be most symbolic. Once designated, U.S. law prohibits arms sales, which are already prohibited. Licenses would be required for certain specified goods, but section 746.4 of the EAR already requires licenses for all items subject to the EAR other than food and medicine. Being designated as a state sponsor of terrorism means that under the Trade Sanctions and Export Reform Act of 2000 a one-year license is required for exports to that country of agricultural commodities, medicine or medical devices, but North Korea is explicitly exempted from this by section 7205(a)(2)

Given that the redesignation of the loathsome Norks would be mostly symbolic, it seems to be a bad idea to torture the definition of “international terrorism” to include computer hacking and individual murders to get there.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Feb

28

ZTE License Extended; Iranian News Outlet Gets It Wrong


Posted by at 7:24 pm on February 28, 2017
Category: BISIran Sanctions

ZTE Stand 6 via http://www.zte.com.cn/cn/events/ces2013/show/201301/t20130110_381605.html [Fair Use]Last Friday, the Bureau of Industry and Security extended the duration of the temporary general license which permits exports to ZTE notwithstanding it’s inclusion on the Entity List. Without the temporary general license, unlicensed exports to ZTE of items subject to the EAR would be prohibited.

It is notable that this extension — from February 27, 2017, to March 29, 2017 — is the shortest period of duration for the ZTE temporary general license granted so far, the others having been March 24, 2016, to June 30, 2016; June 30, 2016 to August 30, 2016; August 30, 2016, to November 28, 2016; and November 28, 2016, to February 27, 2017. It’s not quite clear why this duration is so much shorter than has been granted before.

The Financial Tribune, which bills itself as the “First Iranian English Daily” and which is owned by the Iranian newspaper Donya-e-Eqtesad has a rather entertaining, if incorrect, take on the meaning of the extension of the ZTE temporary general license:

ZTE has been granted an exceptional reprieve from the US Department of Commerce to continue exporting its telecoms equipment to Iran.

Er, not so much. After all, it was ZTE’s exports of telecom equipment from the United States to Iran which got ZTE in the snert in the first place. ZTE can export items not subject to the EAR to Iran without need of the temporary general license; and the temporary general license would not authorize ZTE, or anyone else for that matter, to export items subject to the EAR to Iran. All the temporary general license permits is the exports of items subject to the EAR to ZTE.

So, file the Financial Tribune‘s story under “Fake News” or “Wishful Thinking” depending upon your individual inclination.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Feb

23

Federal Judge Protects Banks from Injured Sailors and Widows


Posted by at 5:15 pm on February 23, 2017
Category: OFACSanctionsSudanTerrorism Risk Insurance Act

Image viahttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:INTEL-COGNITIVE-Cole.jpg [Public Domain]A recent decision by a federal district court in New York prohibited sailors and their families holding a $314 million judgement against Sudan from collecting any of the judgment from funds that had been wired by a Sudanese bank to various other banks and that were then blocked under the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations.  The judgment arose from Sudan’s participation in Al Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole on October 12, 2000.  Instead, now that the Sudanese Sanctions have been lifted, those funds will go to the banks and not to the sailors and their families.

The decision is premised on a highly questionable reading of section 201(a) the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. That section permits victims of terrorism to execute judgments arising from a terrorist act “against the blocked assets of that terrorist party,” including the blocked assets of “any agency or instrumentality of” that terrorist party.

At issue were funds transferred by El Nilein Bank.  The bank was an instrumentality of the Sudanese government when the funds were blocked, which is why they were blocked in the first place, but not at the time the plaintiff sought to attach the assets. The court held that the TRIA did not apply because El Nilein was not an agency of the Sudanese government at the time the plaintiffs attempted to attach the funds and because the blocked funds, under New York law, were the property of the blocking bank and not El Nilein.

Oddly, the court reached these conclusions without even citing the definition of “blocked assets” in section 201(d)(2) of the TRIA, a definition which would seem to mandate the exact opposite conclusion.

The term “blocked asset” means— (A) any asset seized or frozen by the United States under section 5(b) of the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 5(b)) or under sections 202 and 203 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701; 1702)

As readers of this blog know well, OFAC takes the position that assets can be frozen under IEEPA even if they are not legally owned by the blocked party and are legally owned by another party. It is sufficient that the blocked person have some interest, direct or indirect, including a contingent interest. So an asset can be a “blocked asset” of a party even if it is not the property of that party.   Moreover, under the court’s analysis, a wire blocked by an intermediate bank can never be levied against under TRIA unless the intermediate bank was itself a blocked party — an absurd result that Congress never could have intended.

This definition of “blocked asset” also is inconsistent with the Court’s idea that the blocked assets could not be seized because Nilein Bank was not an agency of Sudan at the time the plaintiffs sought to attach the blocked assets. The definition is, significantly, in the past tense. As a result, under this definition and under OFAC rules, the wires did not become unblocked when Nilein Bank was allegedly privatized. The blocked funds did not cease being the “blocked assets” of an agency of Sudan because of that privatization; they would only cease to be such blocked assets when they were unblocked. Nor is their any conceivable reason why Congress would want to create, as the Court did, a class of blocked assets of unblocked parties that are somehow exempt from the TRIA.

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