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NYT surprised by bypassed sanctions

December 28, 2010

The New York Times printed an article on Dec. 24 expressing surprise about the number of licenses granted to American companies to do business in countries under U.S. economic sanctions.  The licenses, which are more like waivers, are granted by a “little known” agency.  “Little known,” perhaps, to the New York Times, but Money Jihad follows OFAC closely (see here, here, and here for example).

The New York Times managed to get some rare public comments from OFAC director Adam Szubin, who is quoted as saying his organization is too under-resourced to adequately evaluate all license requests.  It’s a curious statement given Treasury official Daniel Glaser’s testimony before Congress earlier this year that Treasury has all the resources–legally and financially–that it needs in order to maintain its CFT and sanctions programs.  Which assistant secretary is off message here?

Anyway, the New York Times piece is worth a look.  For now I would just like draw readers’ attention to part of the interesting data that NYT compiled from Treasury’s database about the number of licenses granted to companies.  Here are ten businesses with the highest number of waivers to engage in commercial activities with sanctioned countries:

Which corporations have the most OFAC waivers

Top 10 licensees operating in sanctioned countries

Note in particular the licenses for Iran.  General Electric, Coico Medical LLC, and American Pulp & Paper are busy beavers there.

Many of the licenses are for valid humanitarian purposes.  Some aren’t.  Popcorn seller Henry Lapidos told the New York Times that Iranian soldiers wouldn’t  “be taking microwavable popcorn” to war …  Pretty glib, buddy.  Sell the popcorn if you like, but don’t fool us into believing that your local distributor and retailers aren’t run by an Iranian bonyad under the control of a mullah or IRGC commander who’s using the profits to fund a crackdown on pro-reform dissidents.

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