Posts Tagged ‘nuclear proliferation’

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Nuclear smugglers get slap on wrists

November 29, 2013

Germans sentence exporters to 4 years for trading with Iran

What is the penalty for sending nuclear components from Germany through third parties in what is being called “the largest violation of the trade embargo with Iran”?  Four years in prison.

Meanwhile, individuals who have violated international sanctions to places like Cuba and Iraq have faced equally long sentences for sending money or merchandise that is far less dangerous than what these men did.

From JN1 earlier this month:

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While Syria uses nerve gas, Iran buys uranium

September 3, 2013

The Iranian appetite for weapons of mass destruction seems to be shared by their Alawite catspaw in Syria.  While Bashar al-Assad, the butcher of Damascus, has been busy gassing civilians with sarin, the leadership of Iran has been in secret negotiations to buy additional uranium for their nuclear program from Zimbabwe.

The deal has been struck, notes Global Security Newswire “despite international sanctions,” which appear to be woefully ineffective in achieving Iranian disarmament.  Read it all:

Alleged Iranian Uranium Deal With Zimbabwe May Revive Sanctions Debate

Aug. 21, 2013

By Diane Barnes

WASHINGTON — An alleged clandestine deal in which Zimbabwe might sell sensitive nuclear material to Iran could revive debate over the Persian Gulf nation’s ability to import uranium ore, despite international sanctions.

Zimbabwe’s government took pains last week to deny allegations that it was secretly preparing to supply Iran with unrefined uranium, going so far as to hunt down a journalist who had reported the story and to demand a confession that he had fabricated substantiating comments from a government official.

Some analysts, though, say the southern African nation has parsed its denials, leaving open the possibility of backtracking later on, should it ever decide to sell uranium ore to the suspected nuclear arms aspirant.

The Times of London on Aug. 10 quoted a senior official in Zimbabwe’s mining ministry describing a memorandum of understanding “to export uranium to the Iranians.”

The article’s headline describes the understanding as a “secret deal.” Paraphrasing the official, the newspaper said the arrangement was known by “only a handful of people at the top of Zimbabwe’s government.”

If true, the planned transfer of the sensitive material could potentially violate international sanctions against Iran. Washington and its allies contend the Persian Gulf nation has flouted its U.N. atomic safeguards agreement and previously hidden military efforts aimed at ultimately developing nuclear warheads…

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Backstabbed: How Iraq helps Iran skirt sanctions

April 11, 2013

Nobody has been as good at tracking the painful truth of Iraqi-facilitated evasion of international sanctions on Iran as financial crime consultant Kenneth Rijock.  Consider:

  • The Kurds in northern Iraq have “allowed both rampant money laundering, and widespread facilitation of global Iran sanctions evasion” though their banks. In central Iraq, U.S. dollars are flowing in bulk from Baghdad to Iranmore>>
  • Lebanese banks and Bank Melli, a sanctioned Iranian bank, are operating in northern Iraq.  EU and North American businesses that use Lebanese banks may not be taking sufficient steps to prevent their transactions from benefiting Iranian end-users… more>>
  • “Iraq blatantly disregards UN sanctions on Iran” in accepting an Iranian-flagged vessel‘s shipment at its Um Qasr port, for example… more>>
  • Five Turkish banks in Iraq may be facilitating Iran’s sanction dodging behavior… more>>
  • Iran will reap $16 billion annually from a new natural gas deal with Iraq… more>>

Reading about the dangerous anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies of Iraq may be upsetting to those who have made personal sacrifices fighting for Iraqi freedom, but we have to face the current facts.  How does Rijock describe the Iraq invasion?  “Military success, yes; but AML/CFT utter failure.”

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Money laundering expert accuses Venezuela of massive uranium exports to Iran

January 16, 2013

One of Money Jihad‘s favorites, the Financial Crimes Blog by Kenneth Rijock, is making a disturbing allegation:  that Venezuela is illegally exporting massive amounts of uranium for Iran’s nuclear program, and that U.S. officials have rejected the evidence.  The “reliable sources” aren’t named and the “irrefutable, documentary evidence” isn’t specified, so take it with a grain of salt, but Mr. Rijock has proved to be very insightful and prescient before.

From Jan. 10:

US POINTEDLY IGNORES VENEZUELAN URANIUM EXPORTS

The United States, for reasons not known to this writer, appears to be deliberately ignoring the mounting indications of massive exports of Uranium, from Venezuela, to its end user, the Government of Iran. Reliable sources have confirmed that irrefutable, documentary evidence of same, from unimpeachable sources, has been politely declined when offered. America opposes Iran’s WMD programme, somebody has chosen to ignore the truth, when  it comes from Venezuela.

Given that close monitoring of Iran’s developing illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction programme has become an American obsession, I am baffled as to why actionable intelligence, regarding these outbound shipments is of no interest to America’s intelligence community. Vessels laden with Uranium  are leaving Venezuela’s Caribbean ports, steaming direct to Iran with their illicit cargo…

There’s a little more to the full post including Rijock’s speculation on the reason for the U.S.’s hear-no-evil, see-no-evil attitude here.

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Ten biggest terror finance news stories of 2012

December 31, 2012
  1. Taliban funding remains intact despite international sanctions
    Reports in 2012 revealed that the Taliban’s funding remains intact, that none of the Taliban’s assets have been blocked by U.S. sanctions, that the Taliban retains its taxing authority over Afghans, and that the UN sanctions only 18 percent of the Taliban’s provincial shadow governors in Afghanistan.
  2. Islamic charities remain top terror financiers
    It’s questionable to even call this “news,” but understanding the role of Muslim charities in funding jihad, of which we saw multiple examples throughout 2012, is the Rosetta stone to bankrupting terrorism.  Instances of Muslim charities behaving badly cropped up, and in some cases have worsened, in both in the Middle East and in the West this year.In the Islamic world, the Saudi charitable foundation IIRO, whose branches in Indonesia and the Philippines were previously blacklisted by the U.S. for funding terrorism, is opening seven new branch offices.  In Bangladesh, the chief of the terrorist organization Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) revealed that Muslim Aid, WAMY, the Muslim World League, the Qatari Charitable Society, and the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, are among the primary donors to his jihad.  Read the rest of this entry ?
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Export violation: business evades sanctions by creating a Turkish shell company to sell machines to Iran for nuclear program

December 4, 2012

Spanish tax authorities raid Basque company, seize documents

A Durango manufacturer, Ona Electroerosión, has violated Spanish customs laws by smuggling dual-use technology to Iran, according to official reports.

Ona has denied the charges, saying that it sought two permits for sales of machinery to Iran in 2009.  One permit was approved; one, denied.  Ona says it cancelled the sale to Iran for the permit that was denied, and maintains that the machinery it sold to another client in Turkey was among the simplest pieces of equipment in their catalog.

This version of events described by Ona not seem plausible.  Why continue trying to sell the same equipment that Spanish officials prohibited for Iran to to a firm in Turkey—-Iran’s next door neighbor and one of Iran’s closest trade partners?

European companies have long been active in Iran, but we’re not talking about selling a Peugeot.  This is machinery used to make fans that Spanish authorities believe will be used in Iran’s nuclear operations.

The results of the raid have not been made public yet.  Presumably, the company will face a multi-million dollar fine at a minimum.  If the allegation is true that Ona Electroerosión was determined to deliver the goods to Iran to the point of using a front company to facilitate the sale, then it is not just guilty of gross negligence in its export compliance program.  Under that circumstance, arrests and criminal prosecution of Ona’s senior management is justified.

Here’s one of the more precise news reports on the scandal.  From Reuters via CNBC on Nov. 26:

Spanish company embroiled in nuclear smuggling scheme with Iran

BILBAO (Reuters) – A company from Spain’s Basque country smuggled machinery to Iran for likely use in the country’s nuclear program through an elaborate scheme involving a shell company in Turkey, Spanish tax authorities said on Monday.

Spain’s tax agency said the company had managed to send over seven machines designed to make parts for turbines used in energy plants, in a scheme that violated United Nations security council sanctions against Iran.

A source close to the operation named the company involved as ONA Electroerosion.

The machines, sold for nearly 1 million euros ($1.30 million), were destined for use in Iran’s nuclear development program, according to the agency’s investigations to date.

The U.N., the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt nuclear enrichment, which Western powers fear is part of a plan to amass the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran argues its atomic work is for use in medicine and generating electricity.

The company, based in the Basque municipality of Durango, had been denied a license to export seven fan-manufacturing machines to Iran in September 2009, precisely because of fears they could be used in the nuclear program.

But it later duped Spanish customs by using an intermediary company set up in Turkey by its Iranian business partner, and shipped the machinery to Istanbul before dispatching it to Tehran.

Spain’s tax agency said it had raided the company’s premises on November 13, removing documents and other information it was still analyzing.

Its operation, dubbed “Kakum”, began earlier this year, when it became suspicious of the company’s activities.

No one has yet been arrested or charged in relation to the scheme, the agency said, though added those responsible could face prison sentences and a fine of close to 6 million euros.

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Obama’s 10 biggest terror finance blunders

November 5, 2012

  1. Promising to make it easier for Muslims to give zakat.  Pres. Obama has tried to remove the so-called “chilling effect” that George W. Bush, the Patriot Act, the Treasury Department, and law enforcement “created” by closing down Islamic charities that funded terrorism.  Rather than building on the Bush administration’s successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for sponsoring Hamas, Obama won’t prosecute Islamic Relief, he won’t prosecute CAIR, he won’t investigate ISNA or NAIT, and the IRS has been derelict in stripping suspicious Islamic organizations of their tax-exempt status.
  2. Funding the Arab Spring that has led to the rise of Muslim Brotherhood dominated governments in the Middle East who behave against U.S. national security interests.
  3. Minimizing our energy independence from Middle East oil by reducing oil production on federal lands and waters, rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, impeding hydraulic fracturing permitting, etc.
  4. Making little to no progress on bankrupting the Taliban.
  5. Dragging his feet in adopting sanctions against Al Qaeda and Taliban affiliates such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network. Read the rest of this entry ?
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Jorisch: blacklist the bonyads

June 28, 2012

Bonyads, the supposedly charitable conglomerates of Iran, are finally getting some international scrutiny.  Security analyst Avi Jorisch has called for a new phase in the sanctions regime against Iran:  targeting the bonyads:

Bonyads are tax-exempt Iranian charitable trusts that control an estimated 20–40% of Iran’s GDP. Subsidized by the government, they answer only to Iran’s Supreme Leader. Bonyads represent an important target for sanctions because they control such a large share of Iran’s economy.

As charities, they supposedly provide social services to the poor and the needy, but in fact, they are also involved in every major industry, including soybean and cotton production, hotel administration, soft drink firms, shipping line ownership and car manufacturing.

The United States should publicly name, shame, and blacklist all major bonyads, thus making it illegal to make a charitable contribution to them.

The United States and its allies have all the tools necessary to punish the banks, corporations and charities helping Iran achieve nuclearization. If we are truly going to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, we must use as many of the bows in our quiver as possible.

Indeed, loopholes in the current sanctions regime probably do allow for donations to the bonyads under the guise of food and medical aid.

Money Jihad readers may recall that bonyads have also been described as “massive semi-government foundations with vast religious and philanthropic missions [which] have metamorphosed into huge holding companies that dominate the trade and manufacturing sectors while evading competition, taxes and state regulations,” and about which “analysts agree that the scant supervision has encouraged inefficiencies, mismanagement, and embezzlement,” and it has been asked whether “their funds have been used to procure weapons of mass destruction.”

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Safety smokescreen for Conviasa ban

April 11, 2012

The European Union has imposed an “operating ban” against the Venezuelan airline Conviasa.  This is the same airline that former ambassador Roger Noriega  said “conducts regular flights between Caracas and Damascus and Teheran. The Hezbollah networks use these flights and others to ferry operatives, recruits, and cargo in and out of the region.”  Amb. Noriega also suggested that Conviasa has been used to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to West Africa.

The new Conviasa ban has been attributed in public to questions about airline safety, but anti-money laundering insider Kenneth Rijock has pointed out on his blog that the ban may actually have been imposed due to the transport of nuclear materials from Venezuela to Iran with a stopover in Europe, or due to bulk gold smuggling by the airline to help buoy a faltering Iranian economy.  From Mr. Rijock on Apr. 4:

DID VENEZUELAN AIRLINE MOVE NUCLEAR MATERIAL THROUGH EUROPE ?

…The ban fails to specify exactly what operating conditions, ramp inspections, or other events caused this action, but the grounds may be much more disturbing than flight safety deficiencies.

Any one of these may have been the reason to ban Conviasa from EU airports:

  1. Seats on Conviasa’s curious long-haul operation between Caracas, Damascus and Tehran, have a history of being inaccessible to civilian passengers. It has served as a conduit for Iranian nationals,  traveling for any number of reasons, including evasion of international sanctions, to gain access to the Western Hemisphere. Visas are freely available at the Venezuelan Embassy in Tehran for official travelers; I have seen a few of them on brand-new Iranian passports.
  2. Anti-Terrorism experts believe that agents of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially the Quds Force, its international wing, have entered Venezuela in that manner. Remember also that there is a Hezbollah Venezuela, and this is probably the only direct, open access for members of specially designated global terrorist organisations to travel from the Middle East to Latin America. The arrest and detention, at the US-Mexican border, of non-Spanish speaking Middle Eastern nationals suspected of terrorist affiliations, carrying valid Venezuelan passports, validates this belief. Hamas, ETA, whomever the terrorist group du jour happens to be currently in favour with the Chavez regime.
  3. These wide-body A340 aircraft have been engaged in heavy cargo airlift of military materiel either way, eastbound or westbound. Most experts have heard rumours of missiles to Venezuela; small arms to Syria and Iran; what else has been shipped into Iran, evading the international sanctions ? These aircraft are exempt from normal customs procedures in Venezuela, so frankly, anything goes.
  4. Gold has been known to have been shipped in bulk to Iran; we can also assume that bulk cash, in the form of US Dollars, is also traveling from the Chavez regime to Iran. Remember, due to the sanctions, Iran is in dire need of “Greenbacks” to purchase goods and services in the global marketplace for cash. They are getting some of those needs met from Iraqi sources, but their international purchases from suppliers willing to do business surely do not involve credit.
  5. My best guess is that the EC does not want a nuclear accident at one of the EU airports, due to a mishap involving a Conviasa aircraft carrying Uranium to Iran, or even a nuclear device or component to Venezuela, whose leadership has longed to have the nuclear option. Is that really why Conviasa is now banned from EU airports ?

Should a Conviasa aircraft make a forced landing, or suffer an accident between Caracas and the Middle East, whether through equipment malfunction, or pilot error, we need to see what it is carrying on board, preferably with inspectors carrying radiation-measuring equipment, before its cargo is released. I wonder what will then happen to the Conviasa board of directors and the pilot in command.

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South Africa is Iran’s lead energy buyer

February 20, 2012

While the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia have joined together in sanctions against Iran, South Africa has not.  In 2010, South Africa bought $22.9 billion in fuel, crude, natural gas, and minerals from Iran.  The quantity easily outstrips purchases by China, the country most often singled out for counterbalancing Western sanctions.  From a Jan. 26 report from the Congressional Research Service using data from the World Trade Atlas:

Table I from the Congressional Research Service report on Iran sanctions

Source: The World Trade Atlas, adapted by Susan Chesser, Knowledge Services Group, CRS.

The report has been followed by a Feb. 8 Associated Press article about South Africa’s involvement with Iran:

South Africa’s close ties to Iran under scrutiny

JOHANNESBURG — The West’s increasing pressure on Iran has meant scrutiny for South African businesses that operate in the Middle Eastern nation accused of having nuclear ambitions.

South African-Iranian political ties have long been close, and that has meant close business ties. A politically connected South African telecommunications company has been accused of pushing Pretoria to support Iran’s nuclear power program. A South African energy and chemicals company is reviewing its Iranian investments. Iranian oil makes up nearly a third of South Africa’s oil imports…

The only good thing about the data is that Germany has slipped in the rankings of Iran’s biggest customers.

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2011: Iran’s nuclear march unfazed by sanctions

January 10, 2012

In its November report, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that:

  • The Iranian military has procured nuclear and dual-use material and equipment
  • Iran has acquired information on how to create nuclear weapons through a secret network
  • Iran has tested nuclear weapon components

The advance in Iranian efforts to use nuclear program for military purposes strongly suggests that the sanctions regime is not having the impact necessary to stop their acquisition of the bomb.  Sanctions may have damaged their economy and currency, but that is irrelevant because Iran has shown that it will continue funding its nuclear program regardless of economic conditions.

Pres. Obama’s decision to appoint lightweight David Cohen as undersecretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence indicated a lack of seriousness about enforcing serious sanctions against Iran to bankrupt its nuclear program.  In 2011, Cohen has succeeded mostly in alienating the U.S. Senate by stabbing New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez in the back.  If only we would treat our foreign enemies that way.

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