Jun

20

Shedding Light on Gun Exports on the Dark Web


Posted by at 9:57 pm on June 20, 2017
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTC

Cobray M-11 Pistol via https://www.gunsamerica.com/UserImages/199/917418641/wm_md_10452136.jpg [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Cobray M-11 Pistol

Two geniuses in Georgia hit on what they must have imagined was the perfect crime: sell guns to foreigners anonymously on the dark web; get paid anonymously in Bitcoins; make a billion dollars; spend the rest of their lives watching extreme wrestling and tractor pulls on cable TV. Except, of course, what really happened means that their cable TV viewing options over the next few years are likely to be extremely limited.

Even if, as the dog in the famous cartoon tells the other dog, “on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog” (or a gun smuggler), you can’t stay on the Internet forever. Not surprisingly, even though the two defendants tried to cloak themselves behind the dark web and supposedly anonymous cryptocurrency, they still had to leave their computers, buy the guns, take them to the post office and ship them to real people. And that, as they say, was all she wrote.

According to the indictment, the two defendants, Gerren Johnson and William Jackson, who used the pseudonyms CherryFlavor and CherryFlavor_2, first captured the attention of authorities when a 9mm pistol was “recovered” in the Netherlands from a buyer who said he bought the gun from dark web vendor named CherryFlavor. Shortly thereafter Australian customs recovered another pistol hidden in a karaoke machine (see, nothing ever good comes from karaoke), and the Australian buyer also identified his seller as CherryFlavor.

And here’s how the feds figured out who was hiding behind the CherryFlavor screen name: according to the indictment, Johnson bought an unusual gun, a Cobray Model M-11 Georgia Commemorative 9mm pistol from a dealer in Georgia. Two days later he posted the gun for sale on his dark web site. Now the feds had the link they needed: a non-virtual gun dealer making a real sale in the real world to a real person of a real gun that then shows up on CherryFlavor’s page. Game over.

The interesting thing is what Messrs. CherryFlavor are charged with in the indictment. The first count is operating an unregistered firearms business. The second and third counts are for exports of two guns in violation of the anti-smuggling statute, 18 U.S.C. 554, which forbids exports from the United States “contrary to any law or regulation of the United States.” Oddly, the law said to be violated was not the Arms Export Control Act but 18 U.S.C. § 922(e) which prohibits shipping a firearm without disclosing to the shipper that a firearm is being shipped.

So why aren’t the defendants charged with what appears to be a clear violation of the Arms Export Control Act? We know that prosecutors have argued, not very persuasively, that the knowledge requirement for violations of section 554 is just an intentional export without any requirement that the defendant knows the intentional export is in violation of law. But here, if the allegations of the indictment are true, the case that the defendants knew what they were doing is, as they say, a slam dunk. They sold guns to foreign customers using pseudonyms on the dark web in exchange for Bitcoins and sent the guns hidden in karaoke machines. Criminal intent does not get much clearer than that. My guess is that there is more going on here than Dumb and Dumber selling guns on the dark web. Charges like this suggest that the prosecutors have negotiated with the defendants in exchange for some broader cooperation. If that’s true, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

UPDATE:  Commenter “Name” makes a good point: because the case is in the 11th Circuit, the prosecution has to deal with a stricter intent requirement and has to show that the defendants knew that an export license was required.  See United States v. Macko, 994 F.2d 1526 (11th Cir. 1993).  The defendants’ concealment of the gun in a karaoke machine shows a knowledge of illegality but, perhaps, not necessarily a knowledge of a license requirement under the AECA.  It was for this reason, the commenter said, that the charge was under 18 U.S.C. § 554, which might not be subject to the stricter intent requirement.  Commenter “Name” used a VPN to conceal his/her identity and location, so I suspect this is a person who has some actual knowledge of why the government charged this case the way it did.

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Jun

16

New Cuba Travel Rules: No Place to Stay, No Place to Eat, Nothing to Do While There


Posted by at 3:41 pm on June 16, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Women with Cigar by Daniele Febei [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/7cPMmY [cropped and processed]

President Trump today announced new sanctions on Cuba, effectively rolling back many, if not most, of the changes made by the Obama administration to loosen the sanctions.  The most significant changes will make travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens to Cuba more difficult, if not virtually impossible.

The executive order signed by Trump has not yet been released, but FAQs on the new policy have been posted to OFAC’s website. The biggest change will be with respect to individual people-to-people travel that was permitted starting March 15, 2016. Under the new rules, educational travel under the people-to-people exception will only be permitted if organized “under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges.” What organizations will meet this test is not clarified in the new FAQs.

OFAC says that the individual people-to-people license remains in effect until OFAC issues new regulations, but there is a wrinkle, actually more a tectonic fault than a wrinkle. If you  purchased a ticket or hotel room before today, you can rely on the old license even after the new rules are formally adopted by OFAC. The flip side of this, however, is that you make individual travel arrangements after today at your own risk.  This is because in that case if the new rules are adopted before you complete your travel to Cuba, you’re out of luck and the individual general license no longer applies. In the worst case scenario, if the rules are changed while you’re in Cuba and you have made your travel arrangements after today, you will be in violation of the new rules unless you can instantly teleport yourself off the island.

The other change that will significantly impact travel is the prohibition on all transactions by U.S. travelers in Cuba with “entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services.” This is directed at Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S.A. (“GAESA”) which controls a large portion, probably around 60 percent, of the Cuban economy and most of the tourist sector. Almost all of the shops, hotels and restaurants in Old Havana are run by GAESA, as are most of the hotels elsewhere in Cuba. U.S. tourists who buy a bottle of cold water from a supermarket run by GAESA anywhere on the island will risk getting in hot water with OFAC when they return home.

This obviously poses problems for every traveler in Cuba whether they are on a specific license or are traveling under any of the twelve general license categories. Certainly one cannot expect GAESA to warn U.S. tourists or to plaster its name over all of its properties, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets and stores. Never fear, however — the FAQs say that when the new regulations are adopted the State Department will publish a list of GAESA entities. So, all tourists will have to do is carry the twenty-page list around with them and check the list before ordering a dacquiri, buying a cigar, checking into a hotel, or eating in a restaurant, or doing anything else on their travels. (That sounds like fun.)

You might think that private rentals, like those handled by AirBNB, will be spared the GAESA taint. But you would be wrong. VaCuba, which handles remittances for AirBNB, is owned by GAESA.

The good news is this: if you can somehow manage to get to Cuba under the new rules and find a legal place to stay, you can still buy cigars and bring them back with you. At least, if you haven’t bought them from a store owned by GAESA.

Photo Credit: Women with Cigar by Daniele Febei [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/7cPMmY [cropped and processed]. Copyright 2009 Daniele Febei

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



Jun

15

Delaware Bill Proposes Mandatory OFAC Screening: What Could Go Wrong?


Posted by at 1:37 pm on June 15, 2017
Category: OFACSDN List

Rehoboth_Boardwalk

I love Delaware. I’ve spent many days on the Delaware beaches. Even so, recent legislation proposed in the Delaware House deserves ridicule and I’m willing to do that, even if that means I’m banned from ever having another slice of Grotto Pizza or bucket of Thrasher’s Fries.

The bill in question, House Bill No. 57, prohibits the Delaware Secretary of State from registering LLCs where the members are subject to OFAC sanctions.  It also requires registered agents to screen members to avoid presenting applications with sanctioned members.

The bill is the brainchild of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government  (“DelCOG”), which after untold hours researching Delaware LLCs, has discovered two (yes, two) cases where Delaware has registered LLCs on the OFAC SDN List. The companies in question are 200G PSA Holdings, LLC and Agusta Grand I, LLC, which were designated as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers by OFAC on February 13, 2017. Both companies were registered in Delaware, respectively, on January 29, 2013, and October 28, 2014. Because the designation occurred after the companies were registered in Delaware, the proposed legislation would not have had any impact on the registration of these companies.

DelCOG and the bill’s drafters seem to be unaware that SDNs will get registered in Delaware only when their designation occurs after registration. If it occurs before, the companies will be unable to pay their fees because banks will almost certainly block all payment of registration and agent fees. So the proposed legislation does not really accomplish its intended purpose at all.

What is does do is create is ample opportunity for confusion. Here’s some language from the bill:

The Secretary of State shall neither certify for formation or domestication nor register as a limited liability company any citizen, group, organization, or government of a listed Sanctioned Nation in the Active Sanctions Program of, or any Specially Designated National listed as such by, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury when federal law is violated thereby.

The phrases “listed Sanctioned Nation in the Active Sanctions Program” is not defined in the proposed bill. This is an apparent reference to this web page on the OFAC site which lists countries subject to comprehensive sanctions like Syria and Iran but also countries with regime-based sanctions, such as Iraq and Venezuela, where only designated individuals and entities are affected. This sets up the possibility that when anyone in Venezuela (who is not an SDN) is a member of an LLC seeking registration the Delaware Secretary of State will have to decide whether this violates federal law. The same will occur if the member is a U.S. permanent resident that is also an Iranian citizen. Neither of these instances would violate federal law, but who knows what the Secretary of State of Delaware will decide.

The proposed legislation also wanders into CFIUS territory with equally dubious results. The bill requires registered agents to determine if the purpose of the proposed LLC conflicts with the “prohibited or restricted investment … requirements” of Exon-Florio, 50 U.S.C. App. § 2170. In such cases, the registered agent cannot file the registration application on behalf of the LLC and must advise them to file a CFIUS notice. Apparently, the drafters of the bill are not aware that the CFIUS notice process is voluntary.

This bill amply demonstrates the problems that arise when states take it upon themselves to interpret and enforce federal law.

Photo Credit: Rehoboth Boardwalk by Clif Burns Copyright 2014 Clif Burns. All rights reserved.

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(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)



Jun

13

Sales Clerk Charged with Illegal Exports Given New Trial


Posted by at 10:17 am on June 13, 2017
Category: BISCriminal Penalties

Alexander Fishenko
ABOVE: Alexander Fishenko


Almost a year ago, I commented on the fate of a lowly sales clerk, Anastasia Diatlova, in the prosecution of Alexander Fishenko, his company Arc Electronics, and employees of Arc for exports of various items to Russia without a license. Ms. Diatlova, the most junior sales clerk in the organization, had refused a plea of time served and gone to trial. This infuriated the prosecutors who took that offer off the table when a jury convicted Ms. Diatlova. Last month, however, Ms. Diatlova was granted a new trial on the export charges. The district court, in granting the new trial, held that there was insufficient evidence that Ms. Diatlova knew that it was illegal to ship the item in question.

The court described the evidence of criminal intent presented by the prosecution as follows:

(1) Diatlova received training on export controls and was aware that microelectronics, when mailed to Russia, are “generally subject to U.S. export control laws (emphasis added);” (2) the higher-ups at Arc (Fishenko, Posobilov and Abdullaev) “routinely lied and fabricated documents in order to evade export control restrictions”; (3) Diatlova filled out a “End-Use Certification/Statement of Assurance” indicating that the end user was Izhevsky Radio Plant, when the recipient was instead Atrilor, LTD, making her, at a minimum, guilty of aiding and abetting the illegal shipment of that part; and that proof exists that she was aware in April of 2012, upon arrest, that the part at issue was restricted.

The court held that allowing the jury verdict to stand “would constitute a ‘manifest injustice’ in light of the flimsiness of this evidence,” noting quite reasonably that her knowledge about the export at the time of arrest had little bearing on her knowledge as of the time of the export. Nor could the illegal intent of other employees be attributed to her. The court did not even comment on the export control training, implicitly rejecting the notion that training alone can lay the groundwork for subsequent criminal prosecution. Finally, putting the wrong end-user on the end-use certificate was seen as the court as a sufficient predicate to let Ms. Diatlova’s conviction for wire fraud stand but not as proof that she knew the export was illegal.

This highlights the difficulty confronted by prosecutors when they target people in the cubicles.  As we noted in our prior post on Ms. Diatlova, she had only an eighth-grade education and was being paid only $15 per hour.   Sadly, this appears to be another case of prosecutors who are more concerned about their conviction stats than anything else.

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



Jun

9

OFAC Fines Honda For Complying with Canadian Law


Posted by at 9:25 am on June 9, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsOFAC

Image via https://pixabay.com/p-1202440/?no_redirect [Public Domain]Apparently Cuban diplomats in Cuba like to drive spiffy new Hondas (as opposed to the somewhat older cars almost everybody else in Cuba drives). But, because a dealership in Ottawa financed leases on those cars for the Cuban Embassy through Honda Canada Finance Inc. (“HCFI”), a subsidiary of California-based American Honda Finance Corporation (“AHFC”), there was all hell — or rather $87,255 — to pay to OFAC.

OFAC went out of its way to point out a not-uncommon deficiency in HCFI’s screening process:

The Cuban entity had the word “Cuba” in its name and provided documentation to HCFI demonstrating it was a Government of Cuba entity. Although AHFC and HCFI had policies and procedures in place review transactions against OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons for compliance with U.S. economic sanctions laws, they did not include the names of countries subject to OFAC-administered comprehensive sanctions in their screening system.

Many screening processes simply check names against lists and stop there. So, HCFI screened “Embassy of Cuba” and when that did not show up in the SDN list, the leases were issued. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something like this.

As usual, and longtime readers will know where I’m going, OFAC works itself up in a high dudgeon over these leases without bothering to mention at all the Canadian Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act.  That law makes it clearly illegal  for HCFI, a Canadian company in Canada and fully subject to Canadian law, to deny financing based on the U.S embargo of Cuba.  This applicable Canadian law is not even mentioned as a mitigating factor. Once again, it appears that the U.S. is telling one of its closest allies that we don’t really care what their laws are.

But wait, there’s something in the OFAC release that hints that this might not be entirely the case. The transactions leading to the penalty occurred between 2011 and 2014. OFAC lists as a mitigating factor that “it issued a specific license to AHFC in June 2015 regarding the subject leases.” In most cases, getting an OFAC license to deal with the Cuban government in a third-country would be considered a near impossibility. One has to wonder whether AHFC, after it disclosed the violations, applied for a license and relied on the Canadian Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act as a basis.  This might indeed be the reason why the licenses were granted here and why HCFI wasn’t forced to repo the diplomats’ cars.

The takeaway here is that U.S. companies with foreign subsidiaries in countries with statutes blocking compliance with the Cuba embargo might consider applying for a license and basing the request on the blocking statute.  Because the U.S. company is applying for the license, the application itself would not violate the Canadian blocking law, which only covers “persons in Canada” from complying with the U.S. embargo on Cuba.  Given the massive delays at OFAC in getting license granted this may not be a practical solution. But it is, at least, something to consider.

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


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