Archive for November, 2013

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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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Cleric approved kidnap-for-ransom scheme

November 28, 2013

Dawn reports that five members of the Pakistani Taliban were approved to engage in widespread abductions of religious minorities to help fund their operations.  “An unidentified cleric” granted the approval, probably at least partially based on the Qur’an, Sura 47, Verse 4, which allows for the release or ransom of non-Muslim captives depending on the needs of the Muslim community at the time.

Robert Spencer has the details:

Pakistan: Islamic jihad group planned kidnap of Shias and Ahmadis for ransom

This is an Islamically approved method of fundraising, much preferable to crowdfunding at Indiegogo. Kidnapping infidels and releasing them for ransom or killing them, as well as enslaving them if that option is deemed most advantageous for the Muslims, is fully sanctioned in Islamic law: “As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, ‘When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks’ (Qur’an sura 47, verse 4)” — Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah (The Laws of Islamic Governance), trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. “‘TTP planned kidnap of Shias, Ahmadis for ransom,’” by Mohammad Saleem from Dawn, November 13 (thanks to Lookmann):

FAISALABAD: The banned Pakistan Tehreek-i-Taliban’s local militants had allegedly been assigned the task of kidnapping members of Shia and Ahmadi communities for ransom for fundraising.

The plan, according to sources, was revealed by five militants during their interrogation by intelligence agencies.

The five alleged TTP terrorists — Usman Ghani alias Talha of Jameel Town, Ghulam Mohammadabad, Ali Azam alias Farooq of Razabad, Mubashar Nadeem alias Bao of Chak Jhumra, Usman of Lahore and Shahzad Ali of Gurunanakpura – had been produced before the media by the police at a press conference on Nov 5.

The sources said the plan to kidnap members of two communities was approved after an ‘edict’ in favour of such kidnappings for ransom issued by an unidentified cleric.

According to the sources, the militants told their investigators that they would raise funds for terrorist activities by looting houses of Shia community members and stealing PTCL cables.

They also confessed that they would send a part of their ill-gotten money to their group leader, Qari Imran, in Miramshah…

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Ayatollah amasses $95b in expropriated assets

November 27, 2013

Reuters has published a three-part report (hat tip to Sal) on how the Iranian agency Setad, purportedly an office administering unclaimed property, is actually a vessel for confiscating the assets of regime opponents, religious minorities, and emigrants.  Setad then auctions off those assets to make more money for the Ayatollah Khamenei.

Kai Ryssdal of the radio program Marketplace interviewed one of the Reuters reporters about the investigation.  Take a listen:

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Canada sanctions Signed-in-Blood Battalion

November 26, 2013

Canada has officially named al-Muwaqi’un Bil Dima, often translated as the Signed-in-Blood Battalion, as a terrorist group.  The Signed-in-Blood Battalion was created by Mokhtar Belmokhtar—an elusive terrorist, kidnapping mastermind, cigarette smuggler, and the former leader of Al Qaeda in North Africa (AQIM).  His group carried out the hostage-taking crisis at Amenas gas facility in Algeria that left nearly 40 captives dead in January, and suicide bombings in Niger that killed 20 in May.

The blog Mr. Watchlist, which focuses on sanctions listings, notes that, “This is pretty unusual for OSFI [Canada’s financial regulator]. In the 11 months Mr. Watchlist has been posting, this is the first time they’ve amended their list unilaterally – they usually just follow the changes to the UN sanctions programs.”

The rare independent decision by Canada indicates its concern about the return of Islamist Canadian citizens to Canada after participating in terrorism overseas.  At least three Canadians participated in the terror operation in Amenas, two of whom were killed during the raid, and one who returned to Canada.

The National Post reports that “Canadian authorities are also worried that citizens who have travelled to Syria to fight will return home to spread extremist ideology, recruit others and possibly conduct attacks on Canadian soil.”  The announcement about the Signed-in-Blood Battalion was accompanied by sanctions against the al-Nusra Front, in which Islamist Canadians have enlisted to carry out terrorist attacks in Syria.

The designation subjects members of the Signed-in-Blood Battalion and al-Nusra Front to Canadian criminal law, to asset seizures and forfeitures, and to penalties for doing business with or contributing to the operations of these groups.

Whether any other countries will follow suit by designating the Signed-in-Blood Battalion as a terrorist entity remains to be seen.

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Iran sanctions eased without compensating its terror victims

November 25, 2013

A deal has been reached to lift—according to different estimates—7, 8, or 20+ billion USD in sanctions against Iran in return for modest concessions on Iranian nuclear development.  A portion of the billions of dollars in sanctions relief could have been earmarked to compensate the victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism instead of letting Tehran spend it as it pleases.

If only the P5+1 had been willing to listen to one of the lawyers representing Iran’s victims:

Iran Owes Terror Victims Billions of Dollars, Says Activist Lawyer

The US talks with Iran about easing sanctions, but an Israeli activist lawyer says Obama overlooks the fact that Tehran owes American terror victims billions of dollars.

By: Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Published: November 20th, 2013

Israeli activist lawyer Nitzana Darshan-Leitner: The US should make Iran pay off its debts to American relatives of terror victims before easing sanctions.

An Israeli lawyer who has won billions of dollars for relatives of terror victims has asked Obama administration officials why they are discussing letting Iran off the hook on sanctions while it owes American relatives colossal sums of money.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who heads the Israel Law Center, has won billions of dollars for relatives of terror victims in lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organization as well as banks and other agencies that aid terrorists or act as a pipeline for funds for them.

She wrote Under Secretary Wendy Sherman last month, “Iran must not be allowed under any circumstances to avoid making payment of reparations and due compensations to the families of those whose lives they have destroyed through terrorism…and through the terror organizations it supports: Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.”

In a blog posted this past week on The Hill website based in Washington, Darshan-Leitner noted that Sherman did not respond, and she added, “As a result of lawsuits taken by American victims of terror in U.S. courts, the Iranian regime currently owes billions of dollars from decades of terrorist activity resulting in dozens of victims and severed families. This debt has yet to be recognized or paid by the Iranian government with no sign of an intention to do so.”

She called on Congress to ensure that the U.S. government is working to keep the interests of the terror victims’ families on the table.

Darshan-Leitner pointed out that when George W. Bush was President, he conditioned repealing of any sanctions against Libya on payment of reparations to the victims of Libyan terror. “This move resulted in the payment of $1.5 billion dollars to the victims’ families,” she wrote…

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Haqqani financier with deep Gulf ties killed

November 24, 2013

The chief money man behind the Haqqani network, Nasiruddin Haqqani, has been shot dead.  He has been under U.S. sanctions since 2010; at the time the Treasury Department said, “From at least 2005 to 2009, Nasiruddin Haqqani collected funds for the Haqqani Network, including during a 2008 fundraising trip to a Gulf state and during regular travel to the (UAE) in 2007. As of mid-2007, Haqqani reportedly received funding from ­donations from the Gulf region, drug trafficking, and payments from al-Qa’ida. In 2004, he traveled to Saudi Arabia with a Taliban associate to raise funds for the Taliban.”

Nasiruddin Haqqani used to live next door to the headquarters of ISI, the Pakistani spy agency, with whom he collaborated.

The BBC reports:

… As the group’s main fundraiser, Nasiruddin frequently travelled to the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Middle East to solicit donations.

He represented the Haqqani network in last year’s efforts to set up a Taliban office in Doha for peace talks with the United States.

He was also the group’s main contact person for pro-Taliban elements in Pakistan, as well as its representative with the Afghan Taliban.

‘Well-dressed networker’

Unlike his father and many of his brothers, Nasiruddin Haqqani and two of his uncles did not live in Miran Shah in North Waziristan. He chose to base himself near Islamabad, from where he made his many journeys abroad to secure funds.

Some sources said he had major business interests in the Gulf, including a transport company.

Nasiruddin is not thought to have been publicly photographed.

Those who have met him describe a tall, educated, well-dressed man who travelled in expensive cars and networked an extensive list of contacts all the time.

They say his appearance gave no clue to his militant connections. His code name was “the doctor”, possibly because of a degree that he had studied for.

His death will be a major blow to the Haqqanis, who will need to find someone else to spearhead their efforts to secure financing…

Shouldn’t be too hard for the ISI to anoint somebody else.

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Bitcoin helps Iranian business evade sanctions

November 22, 2013

U.S. president on Iranian sanctions

Another loophole has materialized in Pres. Obama’s “toughest sanctions ever.”  Not that it really matters when we’re offering $20 to $50 billion in sanctions relief anyway if Iran agrees to scale back on its nuclear program somewhat.

By the way, if bitcoin can help businesses in Iran to skirt international sanctions, can’t bitcoin help Hezbollah as well?

From CoinDesk on Nov. 5:

Bitcoin helps Iranian shoe store overcome international trade sanctions

Jon Southurst

An interesting e-commerce site that went online just last week is accepting bitcoin only, because most overseas customers cannot pay with anything else.

The business is Persian Shoes, an over 70-year-old business selling handmade footwear. It is located in Isfahan, the third-largest city in Iran.

The owners are happy to ship anywhere, but paying them is a problem. Thanks to the vagaries of international diplomacy and the past few decades of history, the usual e-commerce channels are blocked.

Trade sanctions against the entire country of Iran by the United Nations, United States, European Union and others mean Western Union and major credit card companies will not deal with Iranian businesses, even those in the fashion world.

The only way to pay someone in Iran is with cash carried in your pocket – or some easily transferrable, mostly unregulated, digital currency.

The bitcoin-only store sold four pairs of shoes in its first day of business. “To my standards it is a good sale!” said the CEO, Mor Roghani. The store’s success continued throughout its first week.

“We have sold ten pairs of shoes so far using bitcoin. This is way above our expectations,” he added.

Persian Shoes is currently operated by three brothers, who are keen to expand the business their father started. Roghani’s cousin, who lives in Australia, introduced them to bitcoin and helped them to set up the site.

The site currently offers leather handbags, purses and shoes for women and seven varieties of shoes for men. Prices are all listed in USD and start around US $80.

Its FAQ page explains bitcoin and guides new users to online services like Coinbase, Bitstamp and BitBargain, as well as LocalBitcoins. It also explains the trade situation:

Our business is making and selling leather products. We like to sell our products across the world and the more customers the better. The problem is we operate in Iran and most payment systems either are not willing to serve us at all or impose a huge risk on our business. Before launching this website, our international sale has been limited to a few dedicated customers who knew about the quality of our products and were prepared to go through a lot of trouble to pay us! This of course, may sound incomprehensible for people who have all sorts of electronic payments at their disposal. However, before finding out about bitcoin, receiving our money was the number one obstacle in expanding our business.

As well as international trade restrictions, exchanging bitcoin back into local currency (Iranian Rials) also faces knowledge and technical barriers.

“Exchange is a bit tricky because bitcoin is not common yet. We are planing to hold onto some of the bitcoins and sell some at localbitcoins,” Roghani said. A lack of online shopping culture locally and poor internet connectivity hinders trade with other parts of Iran.

Depending on your country of citizenship or residence, you may not actually be allowed to buy these shoes even with bitcoin. Just as Americans may not spend a weekend in Havana or enjoy real Cuban cigars, they are also forbidden to engage in any trade activity with businesses or individuals located in Iran.

Despite this, Persian Shoes has taken orders from customers in the US and is waiting to see how smoothly the deliveries go before advertising the business more widely (update: all US orders have reached their destinations so far without problems.)

A query sent to United States Customs and Border Protection (part of the Department of Homeland Security) asking specifically about private e-commerce transactions for items of clothing received the following response: “Unfortunately, sanctions against Iran prohibit this”…