FJA Shortlist 2021
Category: Outstanding Investigative Reporting
How Does Iran Circumvent the Sanctions on Dual-Use And Military Goods In Europe?
Farzad Seifikaran, Nasim Roshanaei
How Does Iran Circumvent the Sanctions on Dual-Use And Military Goods In Europe?
Zamaneh Media - November 1, 2020
by Farzad Seifikaran, Nasim Roshanaei
The original publication is available via the following links:
The international military equipment and dual-use goods procurement network of the Islamic Republic of Iran is an extensive network operating in countries from East Asia to Europe, North America, South America and North Africa. This includes companies and individuals who provide military and dual-use equipment to Iran through secretive and dangerous means.
Instead of prioritizing the livelihoods and well-being of its citizens while helping to bring peace to the Middle East, the Iranian regime has made extensive international efforts since 2006 to buy dual-use goods from Western countries, despite UN arms sanctions and EU restrictions on exports of certain goods. These efforts have been aimed at completing and advancing the nuclear program and acquiring advanced military technology and equipment. In addition to dual-use goods and equipment, Iran seeks to obtain a variety of military weapons, which are mainly procured in black markets. While some European countries can track and identify the complex networks secretly involved in this business, Iran’s more hidden and covert business in these black markets are not easily traceable.
Dual-Use Equipment: Dual-use refers to equipment, goods, machinery, and items, including both products and technologies, that can be used for both peaceful (non-military) and military purposes.
Even though the EU supports the commitment to the JCPOA agreement and disagrees with the return of UN sanctions against Iran and the activation of the trigger mechanism by the United States, they have continued to impose restrictive rules on the purchase and export of dual-use goods and military equipment against Iran until 2023. However, due to differences in laws, types of sanctions, and law enforcement by agencies in export fields in different European countries, it is left up to governments and companies to trade equipment with Iran. In recent years, a pattern can be seen which has been repeated by the Iranian regime and Western countries.
The EU’s restrictions on exports of dual-use equipment to Iran are ambiguous, and there are different interpretations of these laws. International media often use the word “sanctions” when they refer to export restrictions on Iran. Quentin Michel, a professor of political science at the University of Liège in Belgium, disagrees with the use of the word “sanctions” for dual-use goods. He explains for Zamaneh why he believes there are no real sanction on dual-use goods:
“By this definition, if there are restrictive laws, of course, it will be more difficult to export, because you have to respect and commit to a specific process. It will be easier if you do not have rules. Also, any agreement between countries in this regard or any sanctions will slow down the export process. If there are approved restrictions by the EU, EU countries must implement them. But you will be surprised if you know about the differences between the countries’ restrictions and what dual-purpose goods each country has.”
According to Quentin Michel, the implementation of export control laws for dual-use goods and military equipment in EU countries is overly complex and has major differences. Additionally, Michel explains that no sanctions are applied to the economic activity of European companies and that these companies only must ask the government for a legal permission to sell certain goods:
“If the relevant dual-use goods are among these goods, the company will have to ask for a license from the national authorities to sell them. But some of these companies do not care about obtaining a license.”
Due to the wide range of dual-use goods and the complexity of export rules, as well as the profits of European countries as a large part of this lucrative business with Iran, Zamaneh asked Mark Akkerman, researcher and investigative journalist at the NGO Stop Arms Trade (Stop Wapenhandel) in the Netherlands, about the mechanism and process of illegal exports of European countries.
Akkerman tells Zamaneh that the export of dual-use goods is not a problem itself, but in principle, the export of certain dual-use equipment is banned under UN and EU sanctions:
“Export of particular types of commodities with dual-use to Iran are essentially banned under the UN and EU sanctions. The fact that such exports have been gone through is to some extent because EU countries with the permission to export weapons have a wrong or soft position toward Iran (and it seems those commodities have not been sanctions or their use in Iran has not been scrutinized enough) or there was a case of illegal mediation by companies.”
In the continuation of this research, there will be a summary about a few operations of smuggling dual-use equipment and weapons to Iran from Italy and Germany. In a series of joint studies by Zamaneh and Danwatch about the export of dual-use goods and equipment to Iran, such trades through Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, and the United States will be covered in detail in separate articles. Another study also examined the export of large military weapons.
Differences in export laws of European countries
In 2007, the European Union imposed restrictions on exports and trade of dual-use military equipment with Iran. The EU revised these regulations two years later, in 2009. These standards are legally imperative, but it is on the member states to choose their enforcement tools. Specifically, in Article 24 on dual-use equipment in the EU Regulation of 2009, member states are required to “take appropriate measures to ensure proper implementation” and to set “effective, proportionate and inhibitor” penalties for violations. Since the implementation of these laws and how they are enforced is the responsibility of countries, differences in the legal structure and culture of the member states of the EU affect how the laws are enacted. EU countries differ in six areas in this context.
- The first difference is in the rules and types of laws that EU member states have to
control exports. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, prosecute such crimes under the General Economic (penal) crimes. Some others, like the UK, prosecute it under customs (penal) law, while other countries, such as Croatia, hold an option of using special export control laws.
- The second difference is in how much of this information is provided by countries in this
case. Some countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, have enacted export control laws that provide a strict responsibility which means that it is more difficult to prevent prosecution by claiming to be unaware of the law.
- The third difference is the level and type of punishment that different EU countries have
for such crimes. Whether the offense is classified as criminal or administrative influences the level of the punishment. In Cyprus, for example, the maximum penalty for intentionally violating export control laws is three years in prison, which is the minimum in the EU; while in Slovakia there are no prison penalties for export control offenses. In France, by contrast, the maximum prison sentence is 30 years. France has the highest penalty for such crimes in the EU.
- The fourth difference is about who is responsible for violating the export control laws of
dual-use goods, whether it be individuals, institutions, or organizations. For instance, in the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom, both companies and individuals can be prosecuted. On the other hand, in Germany, it is not possible to prosecute a company.
- The fifth difference is regarding the different procedures and methods EU member states
use to enforce their national laws. This can include the rules of criminal procedure that determine how a case is studied in a court. The authorities responsible for prosecuting such crimes also vary between countries. In addition, there are differences in the definitions of basic legal concepts in export control criminal cases, such as assistance and participation, effort, intent, negligence, and protection.
There are also organizational differences in how authorities oversee detecting, investigating, and pursuing operations in different countries. In most EU countries, customs make the initial assessment. However in some countries, the customs office (often one part of the customs office) may conduct the entire investigation. In other countries, the responsibility for the investigation may be with another institution such as the police, expert agencies, or intelligence and security services. In some cases, the prosecution may be even conducted by zones and districts, or by an expert unit.
- The sixth, and most important difference between EU countries, is that according to
national priorities, different budgets are allocated to pursue export control of dual-use equipment.
Reference: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Italian “Lady in black” and weapons and dual-use equipment export to Iran
Anna Maria Fontana, nicknamed the “black lady” by Italian media for her Islamic clothing, was one of the main actors in the smuggling of weapons and dual-use equipment to Iran.
Fontana and her spouse, Mario Di Leva, had friendly relationships with senior Iranian authorities like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the Italian newspaper Ilmattino, the couple traveled regularly to the Middle East, specifically to Iran and Libya. They lived intermittently in Tehran for 17 years. After converting to converting to Islam, Mario di Leva changed his name to “Jafar” in respect of the sixth Shiite Imam.
Fontana also has had relations with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in recent years. She was involved in an international espionage case in 2006 to rescue two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hezbollah.
According to a 2019 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), three Italian nationals were arrested on January 13, 2017 by the Italian Financial Police in Venice on a sentence issued by the Antimafia Investigative Direction (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia or DDA).
Annamaria Fontana and her husband Mario Di Leva, along with Andrea Pardi, CEO of the Italian Society of Helicopters (Società Italiana Elicotteri) – a company with expertise in the production of helicopters and new and used spare parts – have been charged with arms smuggling by a court. They were accused of sending dual-use equipment to Iran and ISIS supporters in Libya through an Iranian-based company between 2011 and 2015, as well as knowingly violating arms sanctions against Iran and Libya.
The three accused Italians’ illegal trade in Iran and Libya included the sale of Russian-made weapons, including anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, helicopter spare parts, and different kinds of ammunition. According to the Italian news agency Il Centro, they were arrested by police before they could make their next deal. A Libyan national is the fourth accused person in this case.
Also, according to documents obtained by Italian attorney generals, Mario Di Leva intended to sell an ammunition factory to Iran. During interrogations, Di Leva admitted he was negotiating with the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Republic to sell the machinery and technology needed to set up an ammunition factory.
According to the Italian news website, Corriere del Mezzogiorno, Pardi was sentenced to two years in prison, Di Leva to three years and eight months in prison and a fine of 8,000 euros, and Fontana to three years and six months in prison and a fine of 7,000 euros.
In addition to these three, six other people were arrested in Italy in March 2016, concerning the same judicial case in which four people were Iranian.
Italy has always had close political and economic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran since the very beginning years of the revolution. Italy is Iran’s largest business partner in the European Union. During a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in New York on October 25, 2016, current president of Iran Hassan Rouhani emphasized the friendly
relations between Iran and Italy, and the development of economic and business relations between the two countries. Business relations between Iran and Italy in 2017 grew by 68% and the amount of trade between the two countries this year reached 2.4 billion and 400 million euros.
The business of Fontana and the other accused people in this case exposes the other side of the close and stable political-economic relations between Iran and Italy – a series of secret and hidden business relations to bypass the international arms sanctions against Iran.
Pieter D. Wezeman, a senior fellow at the Military Expenditure Program at SIPRI, believes that European countries were often aware about illegal trading cases and that law enforcement and their affiliates have worked to track and prevent them:
“Law enforcement agencies sometimes have succeeded locally [to prevent these trades]. In the cases that ended up in the courts, we can see that they really succeeded in arresting a few people who were involved in this illegal business. But for sure, Iran will also learn from its past activities. The Iranian authorities will change their network, and change the people they come to, and eventually the countries where they tried to buy the equipment they needed. Of course, they will try to find the weakest countries; countries where law enforcement agencies are less developed and have a higher potential for corruption.”
Pieter D. Wezeman emphasizes that there are different ways for Iran to purchase the equipment it needs. According to this expert, measuring the level of effort of European countries to prevent such activities is exceedingly difficult and complex.
Iran’s covert deals and uninterrupted efforts to procure military equipment from Germany
Iran has tried to acquire German dual-use technologies since concluding the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with the Western powers in July 2015. According to the German Domestic Intelligence Agency, German intelligence agents recorded 141 attempts by Iran to acquire technologies for “nuclear weapons development” in 2015, almost twice as many as the year earlier. Two-thirds of these cases, or about 100 cases, involved Iranian institutions.
According to the Financial Times, “Iran often targets so-called ‘dual-use’ technology that can be used simultaneously for non-military and military purposes.”
Also, according to Reuters News Agency, 32 attempts by Iran to buy equipment from Germany were detected and are either likely or definitively related to developing their nuclear and mass destruction weapons in 2016.In addition to attempts by the Iranian government to purchase such equipment, in 2012 the German Federal Attorney General arrested four German citizens suspected of exporting “industrial valves” to Iran in violation of EU sanctions. According to Reuters, the delivery of these goods was done in shipments during 2010 and 2011, and were part of an order of several million euros. In order to prevent the tracking of illegal exports of these goods to Iran, the shipments were declared to be exported to Azerbaijan and Turkey.
According to a report by SIPRI in 2019, the final user of these products was MITEC, the Modern Industries of Technology Company in Iran. This company was responsible for building the IR-40 heavy-water reactor at the Arak nuclear power plant, which is why this plant is on the list of EU’s nuclear sanctions against Iran.
In 2011, Hossein Tanideh, a key person in Iran’s nuclear program abroad, with the help of Bekasar Industrietechnik GmbH, a German company that belongs to two other Iranian-German people named Gholam Ali and Kianzad Kazemi (a father and his son), bought industrial valves and sent them to Iran through a company registered in Turkey.
Hossein Tanideh had introduced himself to the Germans as a “refinery manager”. According to a witness in a court, the German intelligence service had been aware of Hossein Tanideh’s actions since 2009 and of his involvement in buying German-made nuclear valves for export to Iran. However, no serious action was taken to prevent these activities until 2012.
In February 2015, Iran Watch, a Washington based website that monitors Iran’s missile, nuclear, and chemical weapons programs, wrote that initial discussions of the shipments began in 2007, when an Iranian named Hossein Tanideh contacted Rudolf Mayer, owner of a German company called MIT-Weimar, to purchase industrial valves. The first shipments were prepared in October 2010 and sent to Iran.The initiator of the deal, Tanideh, fled Germany to Turkey. He was listed by the United States in a Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) in July 2012, and his assets were frozen by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). He is known as part of the procurement network of Iran’s nuclear program and is sanctioned by the United States for his connections.
According to “Valves for Arak”, a report by two researchers named Daniel Salisbury and Ian
- Stewart, Hossein Tanideh was arrested by Turkish authorities in January 2013 and his request for extradition to Germany was not granted. The Iranian State News Agency (ISNA) also wrote about Hossein Tanideh and his arrest in Turkey on August 6, 2013:
“It is alleged that Hossein Tanideh is wanted by Interpol for purchasing the equipment needed for Iran’s nuclear ballistic missile program.”
According to ISNA, Tanideh was finally tried in court by the intercession of Hakan Fidan, the head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization. While the case was being considered, Tanideh would be conditionally and temporarily released and a lawsuit would be filed against him in Turkey.
Finally, Rudolf Mayer was sentenced to three years suspended imprisonment and a fine of 106 thousand euros, Gholam Ali Kazemi to four years in prison and a fine of 250 thousand euros, Kianzad Kazemi to two years and nine months suspended imprisonment, and Hamid Khoran (an Iranian-German businessman who was an interface between the Kazemis and Meyer) to 18 months of conditioned prison by a German court.
Perspective for the export of dual-use goods to Iran after the lifting of arms sanctions
Despite sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iran by the UN and the EU for exporting weapons and dual-use goods, in recent years some European companies have risked exporting such goods to Iran through various channels. The benefits of these illegal trades seem to outweigh the potential risks.
Companies that try to bypass the EU laws and keep trade with Iran secret often do so through fictitious or nominal companies in third countries to make it harder for regulators and law enforcement agencies in their home countries to track them down.
In response to how such transactions have taken place in various European countries despite restrictions, Pieter D. Wezeman told Zamaneh:
“Many law enforcement agencies in the European Union believe that export control organizations are trying to figure out how Iranian institutions, often through fictitious companies from countries other than Iran, can order their specific equipment, materials or parts that can be used by the Iranian arms industry to produce weapons. Tracing these cases is difficult. Europe’s borders are open. Iran’s arms industry and Iranian purchasing agencies have developed the skills and networks to achieve such goods during the years.”
The UN arms sanctions against Iran was lifted on October 18, 2020, but questions remained unanswered: Will the lifting of sanctions make European companies more willing to sell dual-use weapons and equipment to Iran? Will conditions be facilitated for Iran to be able to legally procure the equipment that they need?
Frank Slijper, who leads the arms trade project at the PAX Peace and Disarmament Organization in the Netherlands, told Zamaneh that the situation would not change much once the arms sanctions are lifted. Regarding how European countries work, he says:
“It makes no difference now for European companies and their exports to Iran. The European arms sanctions will remain in place, at least until 2023. After that, the results of the nuclear deal between Iran and the other parties show what the EU will decide and do.”
Pieter D. Wezeman responded to the question in somewhat similar way:
“No, the situation will not change a lot. The European Union will continue to control its exports to Iran. There may no longer be a formal UN sanction, but a collective agreement on allowing arms or dual-use equipment to be exported to Iran is not acceptable in the current situation. And this has to do with how Iran uses its military weapons, because it increases
Iran’s influence in the Middle East to achieve Iran’s specific goals in the region. These goals are not in line with what the European Union and the United States intend to support.”
While there is no clear perspective on dealing with military weapons in Iran, and experts believe that the situation will not change quickly, officials in the Islamic Republic see the end of arms sanctions as an important achievement of the JCPOA: an achievement that paves the way for unrestricted weapons trade from “every source.”
Hassan Rouhani had previously said that Iran had nothing to achieve from the JCPOA nuclear deal. However on October 14, 2020, as the end of the arms sanctions approached, he described lifting the sanctions as one of the benefits of the JCPOA and addressed the deal’s opponents:
“Those who ask what the JCPOA has done for us, this is one of its benefits.” We have lifted the arms sanctions, and from Sunday we can buy and sell weapons from anyone we would like.”
The day after the end of the arms sanctions, Amir Hatami, the Minister of Defense of the Islamic Republic, stated that the country has advanced militarily and has increased demands of weapon purchases:
“Many countries came to us a year ago and we talked together. The Islamic Republic is ready for any sale and purchase of weapons, and of course we will sale them more widely.”
This is political rhetoric. On the other hand, the United States, in addition to its rhetoric by unilaterally withdrawing from the JCPOA and reinstating UN Security Council’s sanctions against Iran, has used all its efforts to prevent arms deals with Tehran. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Sunday, October 18, 2020 – coinciding with the end of the arms sanctions on Iran – announcing that UN sanctions against Iran, including the arms sanction, would be returned on Monday, October 19, 2020.
On the same topic, Pompeo said:
“The United States is completely ready to use its internal authority to punish any person or entity that assists in the supply, sale or transfer of standard weapons to or from Iran, as well as those who provide technical training, financial and service support and other assistance related to such weapons.”
Following the implementation of the JCPOA agreement and the subsequent adoption of Resolution 2231, all UN sanctions against Iran, apart from the arms sanctions, were lifted. The arms sanctions were also lifted through the conditional solution that if five years after the JCPOA the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies that Iran has no undeclared nuclear activity, the arms embargo would be lifted. Also, during this period of five years, other countries were able to legally trade arms with Iran with the permission of the Security Council, but no country has done so.
The end of the UN arms sanctions does not necessarily mean facilitating the use of dual-use and military equipment for Iran, as EU exports restrictions continue to remain until 2023 and can also be extended. Given US pressure and unilateral sanctions against Iran, other countries will be cautious and Iran’s options will be limited to Russia and China.
Now that the arms sanctions against Iran have been lifted, if the government continues to face obstacles, will it use the same methods to purchase its dual-use goods and the weapons? Although it is difficult to predict what the Iranian government will do, continuing the legal transactions or smuggling of weapons and dual-use technologies means spending huge sums to develop a nuclear and missile program. This is notable given that the breadline for a family of four has been reached to 10 million tomans in October 2014.
The contentious political discourse of the Iranian regime and their nuclear ambitions have led to widespread economic sanctions, which will mainly press the citizens, the majority of whom have no role in the ambitions of Iran’s power-seeking regime. The bellicosity and domination of the Iranian regime in the region must be considered, as well as the costly payments in vicarious wars, rent capitalism, and systematic corruption within the country. The international sanctions, which are the result of the Iranian regime’s nuclear expansion, have given the dictatorship of Iran an excuse to justify mismanagement, inefficiency, structural corruption, and the suppression of any freedom-seeking voice. Ultimately, the main responsibility of a government towards its citizens should be to establish peace, welfare, social justice, and freedom for all.
Arms Embargo on Iran- from the beginning of the conflicts to now
by Nasim Roshanaei, Farzad Seifikaran
In recent months, extending or terminating the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran has been one of the most debatable international issues. The United States has always sought to extend the arms embargo on Iran and,ultimately, extended it using the snapback mechanism in the absence of international cooperation. The Islamic Republicpresented and promoted multiple lists of required military equipment after lifting sanctions.
The U.N. arms embargo against Iran officially expired on Sunday, October 18, 2020.
What do we know about the arms embargo on Iran?
Dual-use refers to equipment, goods, machinery, and items that can be used for both peaceful (non-military) and military aims.
OnDecember 23, 2006, during the highest point of nuclear tension and in the first term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Resolution 1737 was passed by the UN Security Council (UNSC) against Iran with approval from all 15 UNSC members. This resolution prohibited member states from any direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of nuclear-related goods and technologies to Iran. It also banned the transfer of particular dual-use equipment and technology that could contribute to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. All 15 members of the UNSC approved the resolution. The resolution listed individuals and organizations in an annex; Member states were obliged to "exercise vigilance" withthe resolution’s list of key institutions and individuals and froze their assets.
On April 25, 2007, three months after the adoption of Resolution 1737, the UNSC adopted Resolution 1747. This resolution included the arms embargo on Iran. Paragraphs five and six completely prevented the supply, sale, or transfer of “conventional weapons” to and from Iran.
Resolution 1747 came to be known as the “Arms Embargo Resolution”. According to Article five of this resolution, Iran shall not sell, supply, or transfer weapons and related equipment. All member states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran. Paragraph 6 calls upon all member states to exercise vigilance and restraint in direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of any battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles or missile systems. Member states should also exercise vigilance when providing Iran technical assistance or training, financial assistance, investments, brokering or other services, and the transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, or use of such items.
The aim of Resolutions 1737 and 1747 and the imposition of heavy sanctions and embargoes on the procurement and sale of weapons and military equipment by the
UNSC was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to persuade them to stop its uranium enrichment program.
The UNSC has passed a total of six resolutions against Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) on July 14, 2015.In accordance with Resolution 2231, the UNSC then repealed its previous resolutions and urged for the full implementation of the JCPOA.
Resolution 2223lifted all financial, economic, and oil sanctions. It retained only the restraints on the procurement and sale of conventional weapons and dual-use equipment for another five years.
Under Resolution 2231, the arms embargo would be lifted five years after the nuclear deal with P5+1 if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies that Iran has no undeclared nuclear activity. On October 18, 2020, five years after the JCPOA was signed, the arms embargo ended in accordance with the agreement.
The United States, which withdrew from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, strongly opposed lifting the arms embargo on Iran and bid to extend the conventional arms embargo.
In order to extend the Iran arms embargo, the United States sent a draft resolution to the UNSC, which was put to the vote on Friday, August 14, 2020. Unlike previous resolutions, only one of the 15 countries on the UNSC, the Dominican Republic, joined the United States in supporting the proposal. Britain, France, and Germany abstained from the vote. Russian and China voted against the proposal. Consequently, the proposed US resolution was rejected.
Activation of trigger mechanism
The European Union (EU) dual-use equipment export control regulations on military equipment to Iran
In addition to UNSC sanctions resolutions, the EU imposed several sanctions on Iran in 2007, including an embargo on transfers and sale of monitoring and controlling equipment to Iran that might be used for the nuclear program and human rights violations. This list was revised and updated in 2019. Based on these sanctions, exporting some dual-use goods to Iran requires a license. Various EU member states are obliged to impose these export restrictions within their national laws.
In line with the policy of “maximum pressure” to force Iran to accept new terms and conditions, the United States has tried to maintain the arms embargo on Iran by activating the snapback mechanism in recent months.
Paragraphs 36 and 37 of the annex in Resolution 2231 defines the snapback mechanism as a "dispute resolution mechanism.”
If any of the participants complain that another party is significantly failing to comply with the JCPOA, they could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution. The Joint Commission would have 15 days to resolve the issue. If unresolved, the issue is then referred to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, who also have 15 days to resolve it. In parallel with (or in lieu of) review at the Ministerial level, either the complainantor the participant whose performance is in question could request that the issue be considered by an Advisory Board, which would consist of three members (two appointed by both participants in the dispute and a third independent member). The Advisory Board should provide a non-binding opinion on the compliance issue within 15 days.
After this 30-day period, if the issue still has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining participant, then they could notify the UNSC that it believes the issue constitutes “significant non-performance”. If the UNSC fails to pass a resolution in favor of continuing the sanction lifting within 30 days, all the sanctions that were in place against Iran before the deal would be automatically reimposed.
Following the United States withdrawal from the JCPOA, the other membersdo not consider the United States a JCPOA participating state. This complicates the snapback mechanism and leads to a dispute over the extension of the arms embargo. However, despite theirwithdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the United States is still on the list of member states of the deal.
The term "trigger-snapback" is not employed in Resolution 2231, which oversees the implementation of the JCPOA provisions. This issue has led to different interpretations of the resolution's provisions, which is the main reason for the United States conflict with Iran and European countries.However, paragraphs 10, 11, and 12 of this resolution permit the reimposition of all UN sanctions and are effectively not much different from the trigger mechanism.
Relationship between JCPOA and the Iran arms embargo
The IAEA Board of Governors referred Iran's nuclear file to the UNSCin 2005. The UNSC has adopted six resolutions against Iran's nuclear program, four of which contained sanctions that have not been imposed before:
- Resolutions 1696 and 1737, in 2006;
- Resolution 1747, in 2007;
- Resolutions1803 and 1835, in 2008; and
- Resolution 1929, in
Almost all the resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which addresses the UNSC's actions and responsibilities in dealing with International Peace and Security. A Sanctions Working Group was formed for each of the resolutions and they each prepared a list of individuals and entities subjected to those sanctions. As a result, the arms embargo and the ban on the sale of weapons and military equipment were among the sanctions against Iran.
This process continued until a comprehensive agreement to solve the nuclear crisis was reached in 2015.
During the JCPOA agreement between Iran and P5+1, Iran insisted on lifting all economic sanctions and arms embargoes. However, this was opposed by the United States, France, Russia, Britain, China, and Germany.
On October 20, 2015, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani that the JCPOA conditional approval included a set of nine conditions, one of which was the lifting of all sanctions.
As a result, the P5+1 parties reached an intermediate solution that included the provisions of Resolution 2231. The arms embargo on Iran continued for five years from the beginning of the JCPOA and could be lifted after this five-year period. During these five years, all arms sales to Iran were subject to UNSC approval. In this period, no country legally traded arms with Iran.
Could the expiring of the arms embargo facilitate Iran's military trade?
As the lifting of Iran's arms embargo approached, tension between Tehran and Washington rose. Hassan Rouhani had previously said that Iran had nothing to achieve from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. However, in a Wednesday cabinet session on October 14,2020, he mentioned the soon to be lifted arms embargo as an achievement of the deal as he addressed the deal’s opponents:
“To those who question the achievements of JCPOA, I say this is one of these achievements: as of Sunday, we will be able to sell our weapons to anyone we wish and buy weapons from anyone we want.”
On Thursday, October 16, Iran's UN Mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told Newsweek:
“Iran has many friends and trading partners, and has a robust domestic arms industry to ensure its defense requirements against foreign aggression. In accordance with the timeline stated in Resolution 2231, Iran will be relieved from arms restrictions as early as October 18. Naturally, from that date, we'll trade, on the basis of our national interests, with other countries in this field.”
In the early hours of October 17, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced the end of the UN arms embargo and the travel ban on a number of Iranian citizens and military officials. The statement announced:
“As of today, all restrictions on the transfer of arms, related activities and financial services to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and all prohibitions regarding the entry into or transit through territories of the United Nations Member States previously imposed on a number of Iranian citizens and military officials, are all automatically terminated.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also tweeted:
“A momentous day for the international community, which -in defiance of malign US efforts- has protected UNSC Res. 2231 and JCPOA. Today's normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region.”
While Iran officials announce the end of sanctions, the question that arises is whether this facilitates the Iran arms trade
Frank Slijper, who leads the Arms Trade at PAX, based in the Netherlands, explains to Zamaneh that the situation will not change much after lifting arms embargoes. He describes the approach of European countries in this field as follows:
“Currently, this does not seem to have any meaningful effect on changes in exports from European companies to Iran. The European arms embargo will remain in place until at least 2023. Conclusively, the results of the nuclear deal between Iran and the other parties determine the future approach of the EU.”
Although the UNSC has authorized arms trade with Iran during the last five years, no country has traded with Iran andit seems that the countries will continue to be vigilant.The only available option for Iran is to trade with Russia and China.
Trump's bid to trigger the snapback mechanism and new US sanctions on Iran
On August 20, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo filed an official complaint with the UNSCpresident for snapback invocation against Iran to bring back sanctions in 30 days.Consequently,the United States unilaterally proclaimed on Saturday,September 20that UN sanctions against Iran are back in force.
On Monday, September 21, the United States announced new sanctions against Iran's defense ministry and others involved in Tehran's nuclear and weapons program and reinstated previous sanctions to support the United States assertion that all UN sanctions against Iran are now restored. Reuters interpreted the US executive order as a warning to those foreign actors who wanted to trade arms with Iran after the lifting of sanctions in October. The warning aims to exert pressure on Iran's missile, nuclear, and conventional weapons programs.
Since the United States withdrew from the JCPOA two years ago, many countries have considered the US sanctions as incapable of having a legal effect and have not complied with it. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Britain, for example, announced in a joint statement that:
“We have worked tirelessly to preserve the nuclear agreement and remain committed to do so.”
However, the United States seeks to exert political pressure with this effort.
The new sanctions announced by the Trump administration on September 21 include the arms embargo, individuals, and organizations. The list of US sanctioned individuals and organizations is as follows:
- Iranian persons directly involved in activities that resulted in Iran’s accumulation of enriched uranium in excess of Iran’s commitments;
- Iranian persons who support Iran’s ballistic missile programs and who have been associated with an Iranian organization that has played a key role in Iran- North Korea missile cooperation;
- Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics;
- Defense Industries Organization and its director Mehrdad Akhlaghi-Ketabchi, as well as the president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, for having engaged, or attempted to engage, in the activity that contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related material, including spare parts;
- Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI);
- AEOIofficials, including Group Director Hamid Reza Ghadirian, who has supported the installation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges;
- Ahmad Asghari Shiva’i, who is responsible for uranium gas centrifuge machine assembly as the head of the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company which is located at Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility;
- Pezhman Rahimian, the AEOI Deputy Head for Raw Material and Nuclear Fuel and the Managing Director of Iran’s Nuclear Fuel and Raw Materials Production Company, who has been involved in activities related to domestic manufacturing of fuel for Iranian nuclear reactors;
- Asghar Esma’ilpur, who has served as the Director of Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a subsidiary of Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center, and is currently a senior official in Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO);
- Mohammad Gholami, alongtime former senior official at the Haj Ali Movahed Research Center, who, along with Asghar Esma’ilpur, participated in and supported the launch of a space launch vehicle with support and assistance from North Korean missile specialists;
- SHIG, who played a key role in facilitating missile-related cooperation between Iran and North Korea (sanctions on this center is updated);
- Seid Mir Ahmad Nooshin, the Director of AIO and previous Director of SHIG, who was key to negotiations with the North Koreans on long-range missile development projects (sanctions on him is updated); and
- Two entities and three individuals associated with the provision of support to SHIG: Iran-based Mammut Industries and Mammut Diesel, both key producers and suppliers of military-grade, dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program; Mehrzad Ferdows, an owner and the CEO of Mammut Industries; Behzad Ferdows, another owner of Mammut Industries; and Mohammad Reza Dezfulian, who has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of Mammut
In addition, the United States has imposed new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector and banks.On October 8, 2020, the Department of Treasury targeted 18 major Iranian banks to stop illicit access to US dollars.
According to the US Treasury Department, the following banks are under new sanctions:Amin Investment Bank, Keshavarzi Bank, Maskan Bank, Refah Kargaran Bank, Bank-e Shahr, Eghtesad Novin Bank, Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank, Hekmat Iranian Bank, Iran Zamin Bank, Islamic Cooperation Bank for Investment (their branches in Iran and Iraq were subject to the US secondary sanctions), Karafarin Bank, Khavarmianeh Bank also known as Middle east Bank, Mehr Iran Credit Union Bank, Pasargad Bank, Saman Bank, Sarmayeh Bank, Tosee Taavon Bank, and Tourism bank.
Among these banks, all branches of Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank, Keshavarzi Bank, and Amin Investment Bank worldwide were subject to the US Department of Treasury secondary sanctions.
Covert deals and Iran’s efforts to buy military equipment from Germany
Fact Box: this article is extracted from the common research between Zamaneh and “Danwatch” about “the international network of purchasing military and dual-use equipment by Iran”. Iran in the last 13 years has been under the arm sanctions of the United Nations and at the same time, from 2007, this country has been faced to the European Union’s restrictions for purchasing military and dual-use equipment. However, Iran has been able to buy weapons and dual-use equipment from some European countries, as well as the United States.
Fact box: The illegal trade of military and dual-use equipment, despite international arms sanctions, is a vast network of governments, organizations, individuals, companies, and smugglers that is accomplished through a complex process. This profitable but risky trade has, in recent years, become a shortcut to the Iranian government, through which it has been able to buy some of the goods and equipment needed to advance its nuclear and missile programs. So far, a number of these transactions have been secretly tracked and discovered by European countries. In this study, we will consider the case of Germany.
Iran and Germany have a long history of cooperation in different fields. For instance, before the revolution, the Siemens super-company built two units of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Therefore, Germany, like other European countries, has always been of interest to Iran for the supply of certain goods. Iran has regularly made efforts to buy dual-use equipment which are under sanctions, and in some cases its efforts have been successful. In 2012, the German Federal Attorney General arrested four German citizens accused of exporting “industrial valves” in violation of EU export restrictions against Iran.
According to Reuters, the delivery of these goods was done in shipments by these people during 2010 and 2011, which were part of an order of several million euros. To prevent the tracking of illegal exports of these goods to Iran, the shipments were declared to be exported to Azerbaijan and Turkey. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2019, the final user of these products was MITEC, the Modern Industries of Technology Company in Iran.
This company which is sub branch of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and has other nicknames too, has had relations with the project of a heavy water plant from 2001 and was responsible for building the IR-40 heavy-water reactor at the Arak nuclear power plant, which is why this plant is on the list of the UN and the EU's nuclear sanctions against Iran, and was removed from both lists a few months after that the JCPOA agreement was signed in January 2016.
Iran Watch (that monitors Iran's missile and nuclear and chemical weapons programs and is based in Washington) wrote in February 2015 that initial discussions on the shipments began in 2007, when an Iranian named Hossein Tanideh contacted Rudolf Meyer, owner of a German company called MIT-Weimar and an Indian company named Bell-o-seal, to purchase industrial valves. The first shipments were prepared in October 2010 and sent to Iran.
Hossein Tanideh had introduced himself to the Germans as a “refinery manager” and, according to a witness in a court, the German intelligence service had been aware of Hossein Tanideh's actions since 2009 and his involvement in buying German-made nuclear valves for export to Iran, but no serious action was taken to prevent these activities until 2012.
According to the published documents by WikiLeaks, in September 2009, the United States’ authorities had warned German authorities expressed their concern about MITEC’s efforts to buy industrial steel valves through two German companies, one of which was MIT-Weimar.
In 2011, Hossein Tanideh, with the help of another German company called Bekasar Industrietechnik GmbH, that belongs to two other Iranian-German people names Gholam Ali and Kianzad Kazemi (a father and his son), bought industrial valves and sent them to Iran through a company registered in Turkey.
Kazemis wanted to export 655 industrial valves to Iran through Bekasar Industrietechnik GmbH which is based in the city of “Haale”, and finally they could send 55 valves to the country. But it is not clear yet how did the company, which is registered as a “wholesaler of industrial products”, but the valves?
On 24 July 2013, the main hearing in the case of Rudolf Meyer, Hamid Khoran (Iranian- German businessman who mediated between the Kazemis and Meyer), Gholam Ali and Kianzad Kazemi was held in the Hamburg Regional High Court. The accused people were charged with exporting 92 German-made industrial valves for use in the Arak plutonium reactor and arranging the transportation of 856 valves capable of being used for nuclear purposes from India to Iran between 2010 and 2011.
Rudolf Meyer, Gholam Ali Kazemi, Kianzad Kazemi and Hamid Khoran were indicted as accused by a German court. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in 2019, during the trial, the accused people of the case argued that the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) had not sent official letters to the companies informing them that this kind of export was illegal, but it had informed Meyer (the main defendant in the case) in informal letters. Meyer also warned by telephone with the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control about Iran's efforts to purchase dual-use equipment and export unlisted dual-use equipment that could potentially be “comprehensively controlled”.
German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control argued in court that at the time of the unofficial warnings, Meyer had claimed that he had not received any inquiries about the goods. But it turned out later that Meyer lied and had previously made the contract for the supply of sample goods and shipments. Under Meyer's guaranty, the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control had assumed that informal warnings were sufficient and therefore did not issue a letter rejecting the official export. Finally, the German Federal Court discovered that informal notifications, letters, and telephone calls from the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control were sufficient to inform an institution that may target an attempt to purchase for a sanctioned final user.
According to a report by the Iran Watch in November 2013, Mayer was sentenced to three years of suspended imprisonment and a cash fine of 106,000 euros, while Gholam Ali Kazmi was sentenced to four years of prison and a fine of 250,000 euros, Kianzad Kazmi to two years and nine months of suspended imprisonment and Hamid Khoran to 18 months of conditioned prison.
The initiator of the deal, Hussein Tanideh, fled Germany to Turkey. Tanideh was listed by the United States in a Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) in July 2012, and its assets were frozen by the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). He is known as part of the procurement network of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and is one of the people sanctioned by the United States in connection with Iran's nuclear program.
According to a report by two researchers named Daniel Salisbury and Ian J. Stewart provided under the name “Arak’s valves”, and it was published by The Imperial College London in 2014, the Hossein Tanideh was arrested by Turkish authorities in January 2013, but his request for extradition to Germany was not granted. According to the same report, Indian authorities also considered the exported shipments of valves, from Indian to Tanideh’s company named “IDI” in Turkey. The result of these searches in India was that the Indian company has not violated India’s laws, because it was not aware that the last destination of the goods is Iran.
The IDI company which is based in Bakirkoy in Istanbul, is registered in March 2010 and its board members, except for Hossein Tanideh, are Mahsa Vahidi, Pegah Vahidi, Mohammad Vahidi and Banoo Taherkhani. This company has registered with 12 different work fields and operates from selling property to selling chemicals and fuel.
Domestic Iranian media were not silent too about this operation. On 6 August 2013, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which is a governmental news Agency, wrote about Hossein Tanideh and his arrest in Turkey:
“It is alleged that Hossein Tanideh is wanted by Interpol for purchasing the equipment needed for Iran's nuclear ballistic missile program.” At the request of the German Federal Prosecutor's Office, Interpol issued a red bulletin to Hussein Tanideh. After cooperating with Turkish Interpol, Tanideh was arrested on 19 January 2013 in a house in Istanbul, and after Tanideh's arrest in Istanbul, Germany began the extradition process. Anyway, Hakan Fidan, the head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization interfered with the case and asked for a solution for preventing Tanideh’s extradition. In a meeting which was held on the topic, they found a very strange way to prevent Tanideh’s extradition. This was done in such a way that a trial was held against Tanideh in Turkey and a temporary release sentence was issued while the trial was ongoing. This formula was accepted, and a lawsuit was filed against Tanideh in Turkey.”
ISNA quoted a Turkish newspaper, named “Taraf” that the refusal to extradite this Iranian citizen has had an undesirable effect on Turkish-German diplomatic relations. It seems that Iran's close diplomatic relations with Turkey were worthwhile for Turkey to support the Iranian government in not extraditing Hussein Tanideh, and not to care about diplomatic relations with Germany that would be destroyed.
Iran’s efforts for purchasing small weapons and dual-use equipment from Germany
In addition to secretly purchasing dual-use equipment, Iran has made many legal attempts to purchase this equipment from European countries, but to no success. According to the German Domestic Intelligence Agency, Iran had tried to acquire nuclear technology in Germany even after the nuclear deal it reached with Western powers in Vienna in July 2015. The annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) on Iran's covert efforts states:
“Iranians' illegal efforts to procure technology ‘at a level slightly above international standards’ continued in Germany in 2015”.
The report also states that: “this has been particularly the case for goods that could be used in nuclear technology. Iran’s efforts to buy missile parts that can be equipped with nuclear warheads have been increased.
According to Financial Times in 2016, Iran’s activities in Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany, Germany's most populous state, have been evaluated in the BfV annual report. Given this report,
German intelligence agents recorded 141 attempts by Iran to acquire technologies for “nuclear weapons development” in 2015, almost twice as many as a year earlier. Two-thirds of these cases, or about 100 cases, involved Iranian institutions.
The report emphasizes that Iran's focus was on supplying spare parts for its missile program, not for the purposes of its nuclear program. Using these details, German authorities argued that Iran had not necessarily violated last year's nuclear deal.
The Nordrhein-Westfal BfV Annual Report also states:
“Iran often targets so-called 'dual-use technology that can be used simultaneously for non- military and military purposes.”
According to this report, Iran and other “developing nuclear warfare countries" such as Pakistan bought goods under the excuse of “deploying them in non-military investigations, or in the oil, gas and steel industries” and often from “fake certificates or apparently official documents” that make them able to procure goods for military and nuclear purposes.
According to the BfV, Iranian agents often used fictitious companies in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and China to hide the destination of the goods purchased. None of these reports mentions the level of Iran’s activities in 2015 before or after the JCPOA, but they explain that some efforts were made to procure equipment after June (after the coagulation of the JCPOA).
To have more information, Zamaneh contacted the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and asked for more precise information and a conversation, but as of this writing, it has not received a response.
Also, according to Reuters News Agency, 32 attempts of Iran to buy equipment from Germany has been recorded that may be or are for sure related to developing their nuclear and mass destruction weapons in 2016.
To find out more, Zamaneh contacted Azadeh Zamirirad, an expert at the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin and asked for an interview. But another person who introduced himself as her colleague responded to Zamaneh's email on behalf of Ms. Zamirirad, saying that Zamirirad was not available and would not talk. In an interview with Deutsche Welle's Persian last year, Zamirirad said that international sanctions had not made Iran's weapons arsenal obsolete.
According to German national news agencies, it is not possible to directly accuse the Islamic Republic of providing the equipment needed to advance its nuclear program, but there are still concerns about Iran's activities.
Mark Akkerman, a Dutch researcher on the complexity of exporting different materials and equipment, tells Zamaneh that not only are certain items of dual-use equipment banned under UN and EU sanctions, but there are also occasional misevaluations:
“Export of particular types of commodities with dual use to Iran are essentially banned under the UN and EU sanctions. The fact that such exports have been gone through is to some extent because EU countries with the permission to export weapons have a wrong or soft position toward Iran (and it seems those commodities have not been sanctions or their use in Iran has not been scrutinized enough) or there was a case of illegal mediation by companies.”
Hossein Tanideh’s operation to send industrial valves from Germany to Iran shows that although European export control restrictions prevented this trade, Iran was able to complicate tracking and proving the operation by using its networks in Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Italian “lady in black” and export of weapons and dual-use equipment to Iran
Fact box: This article is an article from Zamaneh and Danwatch Research Collection about the “International Network for the Purchase of Military and Dual-use Equipment in Iran.” Iran has been under UN arms sanctions for the past 13 years, and at the same time has faced restrictions on the purchase of dual-use military equipment by the European Union since 2007. Nevertheless, Iran has been able to purchase its dual-use weapons and equipment from some European and American countries.
Fact box: The illegal trade of military and dual-use equipment, despite international arms sanctions, is a vast network of governments, organizations, individuals, companies, and smugglers that is accomplished through a complex process. This profitable but risky trade has, in recent years, become a shortcut for the Iranian regime, through which it has been able to purchase some of the goods and equipment needed to advance its nuclear and missile programs. So far, a number of these transactions have been secretly tracked and discovered by European countries. In this research, we will see the case of Italy.
Anna Maria Fontana, a woman nicknamed the “lady in black” by the Italian media, was a key player in the covert trade of dual-use weapons and equipment to Iran. Fontana and her spouse, Mario Di Leva, had converted to Islam and had close relations to senior Iranian political authorities.
According to a 2019 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), three Italian nationals were arrested on 13 January 2017 by the Tax Financial Unit of the Italian Financial Police in Venice on a sentence issued by the Antimafia Investigative Direction (DirezioneInvestigativaAntimafia or DDA) and a fourth person with Libyan nationality was prosecuted.
Bypassing the sanctions, these individuals tried to export some dual-use military equipment and goods to Iran, while the UN sanctions (2006) and the restrictions on the export of dual- use equipment of the European Union (2007) against Iran was held. Anna Maria Fontana and her husband Mario Di Leva with Andrea Pardi, CEO of the Italian Society of Helicopters (SocietàItalianaElicotteri) - a company that is expert in the production of helicopters and new and used spare parts - have been charged with arms smuggling and sending the dual-use equipments to Iran and also sending weapons to ISIS supporters in Libya through a company, situated in Iran between 2011 and 2015 and also of knowingly violating arms sanctions against Iran and Libya by a court in Naples in Italy.
According to the Italian news agency La Repubblica, Anna Maria Fontana and Mario Di Leva lived mostly in the Middle East, Iran and Libya. The couple's close relationships with Middle East politicians have always been the subject of Italian medias, and in connection with the export of military equipment to Iran after their arrest, the Repubblica news agency published a picture of Anna Maria with former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a diplomatic party in Rome.
Some Iranian domestic media outlets have also reacted to publishing a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Italian smugglers, including Jam News, owned by Mohammad JavadAsgari, a fundamentalist political and current member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Anna Maria Fontana and her spouse, Mario Di Leva have a background of political activity in Italy. In 1967, at the age of 23, Fontana and her spouse were elected as the city council members by the Communist Party in San Giorgio. Fontana was also an adviser to the Italian Communist Party for many years. The couple lived periodically in Tehran for 17 years, and when they converted to Islam, Mario Di Leva changed his name to “Jafar” in respect of the sixth Shiite imam. According to the Italian newspaper ilmattino, during their residency in Iran, they had close and intimate relations with mainly Iranian specialists and engineers who had studied at the Polytechnic University of Naples.
Fontana also has had relations with the IRGC in recent years. She was involved in an international espionage case in 2006 to rescue two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hezbollah. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has identified Fontana as a spy and one of Iran's secret intelligence agents, who are estimated to be at least 30,000 agents worldwide.
The Italian media refer to Fontana as a person who likes to always be the centre of media attention, and after converting to Islam and dressing in Islamic ways, she was nicknamed the “Lady in Black”. Fontana laughs even at the photos that have been published of her while she was taken to court.
Fontana and three other accused people covert trades with Iran and Libya, included the sale of Russian-made weapons, including anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, the sale of helicopters and helicopter spare parts, and ammunition. They were arrested before she could make her next deal, according to the Italian news agency Il Centro. But until their arrest, they could export Mangusta A129 helicopters, a number of Russian MI-17 offensive helicopters, an air ambulance capable of being converted for military use, 12 aircraft engines, 13,950 950- M14 rifles and various types of rockets and ammunition to Iran. The trade of the export of helicopter spare parts to Iran is estimated at 757 pieces which is met through a Panamanian company.
Also, according to documents found by Italian prosecutors and statements made by some detainees in connection with the case, Mario Di Leva intended to sell an ammunition factory to Iran. During interrogations, Di Leva also admitted this and said that he was corresponding with the Ministry of Defence of the Islamic Republic to sell the machinery and technology needed to set up an ammunition factory. In the past, he had succeeded in selling the same factory he intended to set up in Iran, to Egypt, which reached the installation and implementation.
The investigation about this illegal exports began in 2011 and followed the wiretapping of members of the Naples Mafia (Camorra) and when the Italian Central Office for the Investigation of Organized Crime decided to follow up more closely with the Naples Attorney General's Office. . According to the Italian News Agency, La Republica, Naples' investigation was focused on the involvement of the Brenta Mafia and the Camorra tribe in training a battalion of Somali mercenaries in the Seychelles (officially known as the Republic of the Seychelles which is an island in the Indian Ocean and East Somalia), which was believed to be related to a relative of Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, the former leader of the Puntland Autonomous Region in north-eastern Somalia. The investigation led to the discovery of an international arms trade network involving the Rome-based Andre Pardi Company; the same company from which Anna Maria Fontana and her spouse had its help to export illegal equipment to Iran, in exchange for the cash that they paid to this company.
Negotiations, transactions, and sales of goods were held in several African, Asian, and European countries. These products were often exported to Iran and Libya without passing through Italian territory. The person who oversaw exporting to Libya was named Mohamud Ali Shaswish, and the weapons that were sent to Libya through this network were given directly to the Islamic State (ISIS).
The trial of the accused people in this illegal export was held in Italy on 27 June 2017. Based on the Italian law, any attempt to export weapons without a license can lead to 3 to 12 years of prison, while the export of dual-use goods can lead to 2 to 6 years in prison. However, according to the Italian news website Corriere del Mezzogiorno, all three Italian accused people filed a protest lawsuit, but in the end, Andre Pardi was sentenced to two years in prison and Mario Di leva to three years and eight months in prison, and a fine of 8,000 euros and Anna Maria Fontana was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison and a fine of 7,000 euros. In addition, Fontana and Di leva's son, Luca Di Leva, was prosecuted for having a bank account that an amount of 100,000 euros had been deposited into.
But the accused people in the case of the covert trade of arms and dual-use goods to Iran were not just these three. In March 2016, six other people were arrested in connection with the same case in Italy, four of whom were Iranians. The detainees of the same case included Reza Hashemizad (53), Seyed Mohammad Javad Sadri (34), Habib TohidiSabet (37), Shirin Shaki (56), Rousseau Craig Soroudi (66), an American of Iranian descent and Alberto Marchiori (75), an Italian citizen. Reza Hashemizad owns a company called Dun & Bradstreet in Padua, near Venice, and according to the company's website, its services include providing the most comprehensive business data and analytical tools to various businesses.
Italy is one of the European countries that, in addition to its historical relations background, has always had close political and economic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran since the very beginning years of the revolution. Italy is Iran's largest business partner in the European Union, and during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, in New York on 25 October 2016, current president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani , emphasized the friendly relations between Iran and Italy, and the development of economic and business
relations between the two countries. Business relations between Iran and Italy in 2017 has had a growth of 68% and the amount of trade between the two countries this year reached 2.4 billion and 400 million euros.
Ahmad Pourfallah, chairman of the Iran-Italy Joint Chamber, had told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) in 2018 that although sanctions imposed by the JCPOA have made trades between the two countries more difficult, “in the post-JCPOA period, more than 1000 businesswomen/men and almost 300 Italian companies came to Iran.” However, as Italy was in economic crisis, it was forced to reduce its business with Iran under pressure of other EU members, according to Pourfallah. imports from Italy through third countries are st ill ongoing.
In fact, what we can learn from the business of Fontana and the other accused people in this case is that on the other side of the close and stable political-economic relations between Iran and Italy, there is a series of secret and hidden business relations to bypass the international arms sanctions against Iran. Relationships that sometimes occur by escaping the different laws of different countries and the European Union and sometimes due to different interpretations of legal documents.
Pieter D. Wezeman, a senior fellow at the Military Expenditure Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), about the cases of illegal trades, believes that European countries were often aware about the cases and that law enforcement and their affiliates have worked to track and prevent them:
“Law enforcement agencies sometimes have succeeded locally [to prevent these trades]. In the cases that ended up in the courts, we can see that they really succeeded in arresting few people who were involved in this illegal business. But for sure, Iran will also learn from its past activities. The Iranian authorities will change their network, and change the people they come to, and eventually the countries where they tried to buy the equipment they needed. Of course, they will try to find the weakest countries; countries where law enforcement agencies are less developed and have a higher potential for corruption”.
Pieter D. Wezeman emphasizes that there are different ways for Iran to purchase the equipment that this country needs. According to this expert, measuring the level of effort of European countries to prevent such activities is exceedingly difficult and complex.
Spain, a fount for smuggling valves to Iran
Fact Box: The present piece is an article based on research done by “DanWatch” and “Zamaneh” on “Iran’s international Network for the Procurement of military and dual-use equipment”. Over the past 13 years, Iran has been subject to the UN arms embargo. It has also faced limitations regarding the procurement of military and dual-use equipment put in place by the European Union since 2007. Nevertheless, during this period Iran has managed to procure arms and dual-use equipment from some European countries as well as the United States.
In the Box: Illicit trade of military and dual-use equipment despite international arms embargo, consists of a vast network of governments, organizations, individuals, companies and smugglers which functions through a complicated process. Over the past few years, this illicit, yet lucrative business has provided Iran’s regime with a detour to bypass international arms sanctions through which Iran has managed to procure some of the equipment and goods it required to further its missile and nuclear program. So far, a number of such clandestine trades have been traced and uncovered by European countries. In this research, we will look at the case of Spain.
Spain is one of the countries that ever since the Islamic Revolution, has had stable economic relations with Iran’s regime and has always attempted to maintain these relations. From a political point of view, Spain has largely taken a neutral position with regard to Iran. It was also among the countries that did not welcome US sanctions against Iran during Iran-Iraq war.
Spain is also one of the world’s leading manufacturers of valves and electrical discharge machines (EDM), both of which could be used for military as well as civil purposes. This makes Spain one of the best options for Iran through which they could circumvent the arms embargo and procure military hardware and dual-use goods, not to mention that Spanish companies would benefit substantially from the deals, too.
On 1 April 2014, Spain’s Civil Guard arrested four individuals for attempting to export dual- use items to Iran in 2011. One of the suspects was a 47-year-old Iranian national while three others were a Spanish father with his daughter and son.
According to a report published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in 2019, the suspects were trying to export two industrial metal-forming machines and associated technology that could be used to manufacture missile shells or parts for gas centrifuges used for enriching uranium to Iran.
In an operation called Terracota, several private residences and company offices in Tarragona and Palma de Mallorca in the autonomous community of Catalonia were searched. The police seized two metal-forming machines, currency in euros and Iranian rials (a total of around €10,000), export documents, and several computer storage devices.
Terracota operation began when Spain’s Civil Guard, following export control operations and in cooperation with Britain’s HM Revenue and Customs and Metropolitan Police Service, detected the transfer of two industrial machine tools from England to Spain. The interceders, who didn’t have an export license, were trying to hide their illicit export to Iran. In addition to the Spanish national media, the news of the arrests in relation to the clandestine exports to Iran also made its way to some world media, including CNN.
The suspects were convicted of smuggling dual-use material in violation of 2011 Anti- smuggling Act, as well as membership in a criminal organization and money laundering, in violation of the 1995 Criminal Code. The charges could lead to up to six, eight, and five-year prison sentences respectively. While the Iran national was taken into custody pending trial, the Spanish nationals were released provided that they would not leave the country and would report regularly to the police. As of late November 2019, the case was still under investigation in the pre-trial phase.
Terracota operation was not the only operation carried out in Spain in order to deal with the illegal export of military and dual-use items to Iran. According to El Mundo daily newspaper in Spain, over the past few years at least 12 Spanish companies have illicitly exported military parts and equipment and dual-use items to Iran.
One of the most famous illicit export operations to Iran was the case where the Spanish police managed to prevent the illegal sale of 9 military transport helicopters. In this operation5 Spanish businessmen and 3 Iranian nationals were arrested. The 5 Spanish businessmen were convicted of trying to export US-made aircrafts, while the 3 Iranian nationals were convicted of negotiating the purchase of military material. The total value of the helicopters and spare parts seized during this operation, called operation “Nam”, in 2011 was €100 million.
Earlier, two other investigations regarding attempted exports to Iran, namely operation Kakum and operation Alfa, had led to a court judgment. In both cases the company attempting to make the exports to Iran was fined. The owner of the company investigated in the Alfa operation was also given a prison sentence.
Operation Alfa focused on a company, FluvalSL, that operated through shell companies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ship military equipment to Iran. The police investigation started after the Spanish authorities noticed a decrease in the number of export requests submitted by the company. According to a report from El Correo newspaper, in January 2013 two people were arrested in Vizcaya, close to the French border, and were accused of illegally exporting Inconel 625 valves to Iran. In March 2013, Spain’s Civil Guard had detected two trucks owned by the company Fluvalin Amurrio. The 44 valves for different uses and the installation equipment were found in the truck alongside export documents for Iran, banking invoices and various computer equipment.
What makes illicit Inconel export important is the fact that this 25-percent-nickel and 20- percent chromium based superalloy is highly resistant to oxidation and corrosion which makes it a suitable option for usage in extreme environments subjected to heat and pressure. It is often encountered in nuclear reactors used for uranium enrichment, as well as marine industries, chemical processing and aerospace.
Sentencing took place on 4 May 2015. The court ordered Fluval to pay a €5 million fine. Also, according to the same verdict, Fluval was prohibited from obtaining public subsidies for 7 months and 15 days. In addition, exporting Inconel 625 valves to Iran was prohibited either for 6 months or until such time as EU Council restrictive measures against Iran was in force. The owner of the company was also sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a
€3 million fine. However, the sentences are provisional as the case has gone to appeal.
Zamaneh contacted Fluval and asked for an interview about the case, but the request for an interview has so far remained unanswered.
In January 2015 and in the framework of the operation codenamed‘Kakum’, the Spanish company Durango Onaelectroerosión was convicted. According to El Mundo newspaper, this time two Iranian companies, MAPNA Turbine Engineering and Manufacturing Company (TUGA) and MTEM which specializes in gas turbine manufacturing, bought seven fan- manufacturing machines designed to make parts for turbines used in energy plants from manufacturers in Spain’s Basque country. The parts were likely to be used in Iran’s nuclear program. In this export deal, an intermediary shell company, named ‘Energik Trading Elektric’, was chosen which had its head office in a small apartment in Istanbul, Turkey and was under its Iranian business partner’s control. The court sentenced the Spanish company Durango Onaelectroerosión to pay a fine of €1,841,476. They were also prohibited from trading with Iran for 3 years.
Mapna Group, is a private international manufacturing, industrial and trading company in Iran, with 41 subsidiaries, involved in development and execution of thermal power plants (steam, gas and combined cycle). They are also active in oil & gas projects, railway
transportation projects, and investment services across Iran and the Middle East. Mapna is currently headquartered in Iraq, Indonesia, Syria and Algeria. The government of Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran and a proponent of the privatization process, has always supported and commended this private company. Khuzestan MapnaToliBargh Company is one of the Iranian subsidiaries of Mapna, which is on the list of US secondary sanctions.
These researches demonstrate the complexity of bringing prosecutions in such cases in line with countries’ existing national laws. For example, Terracota operation was conducted in 2014, but as of 2019 the case had not yet gone to trial.
The complexity of EU members’ separate laws on the export of dual-use items, as well as the different and varied uses of such goods, has made drawing a clear picture of the details of the laws quite difficult. Zamaneh has asked Quentin Michel, a professor of political science at the University of Liege in Belgium, who also specializes in regulations governing dual-use goods in EU countries, to give us some examples of illegal exports of dual-use goods to Iran.
Michel told Zamaneh that not all dual-purpose goods are on the list of the items that require an export license. That’s why we still witness the export of such goods to Iran:
“There is no general ban on the export of dual-use equipment to Iran. The licensing mechanism is restricted to special goods and does not include all dual-use items. The only goods that need an export license, are those related to nuclear programs. The license should be issued by the authorities in the country where the goods are purchased. Such cases involve risk assessment issues. So it is not surprising that we are still exporting to Iran.”
Therefore, according to Michel, as far as the dual-use goods are concerned, the issue is obtaining an export license. Sometimes, the company or the companies involved find it worthwhile to take the risk and circumvent the regulations.
Shipping fighter jet parts to Iran from a house in the UK
Fact Box: The present piece is an article based on research done by “DanWatch” and “Zamaneh” on “Iran’s international Network for the Procurement of military and dual-use equipment”. Over the past 13 years, Iran has been subject to the UN arms embargo. It has also faced limitations regarding the procurement of military and dual-use equipment put in place by the European Union since 2007. Nevertheless, during this period Iran has managed to procure arms anddual-use equipment from some European countries as well as the United States.
In the Box: Illicit trade of military and dual-use equipment despite international arms embargo, consists of a vast network of governments, organizations, individuals, companies and smugglers which functions through a complicated process. Over the past few years, this illicit, yet lucrative business has provided Iran’s regime with a detour to bypass international arms sanctions through which Iran has managed to procure some of the equipment and goods it required to further its missile and nuclear program. So far, a number of such clandestine trades have been traced and uncovered byEuropean countries. In this research, we will look at the case of the Great Britain.
For months, a retired British couple had been counting 10,000 nuts and bolts and hiding aircraft parts in the attic of their apartment. They claimed to be unaware of the fact that Iran, an embargoed country banned fromprocuring aircraft parts, was the final destination of the parts they packed and exported through their home-business. Paul and Iris Attwater had been duped into a clandestine operation. After being taken into custody, Paul Attwaterpleaded guilty at court, claiming that he and his wife had been ‘groomed’ by a family friend named Alexander George.
According to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), following a trial in October and November 2018, Southwark Crown Court in London convicted three British citizens, Paul and Iris Attwater and Alexander George, of the “illicit shipping of military hardware to Iran, including parts for Russian MiG and US F4 Phantom planes.” These clandestine exportshad taken place between February 2010 and March 2016.
Alexander George, who was accused of “being knowingly concerned in the export of goods with intent to evade the prohibition or restriction on such export”, having violated the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and The Export Control Order 2008, was found guilty. Paul and Iris Attwater were also convicted of “having knowingly violated the Customs and Excise Management Act.”
According to the Guardian, the investigators ofHMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) – who has the responsibility for controlling the export of military and dual-use equipment – found out that Alexander George sourced aircraft parts from the United States and sent them to his companies in Malaysia and UAE before illegally re-routing them to Iran.
When he feared he was being investigated, he recruited Pairs Aviation, which was operated by Paul and Iris Attwater to act as a buffer. Pairs Aviation was founded in 2007 in Britain by the Attwaters and was involved in the sale of machinery, industrial equipment, ships and aircrafts, and aircraft spare parts. Pairs Aviation was dissolved in August 2018.
A number of exports from Pairs Aviation had been blocked by 2010 over fears the items were ending up in the hands of an unauthorized end user. In the same year, Alexander George was interviewed twice by HMRC officers at London Heathrow airport for trading aircraft parts. He denied having anything to do with this business and claimed he was in the sale of goggles, wheelbarrows and gloves for construction industry.
According to HMRC investigators, Paul and Iris Attwater, owners of Pairs Aviation, sourced aircraft parts from the United States and sent them to Alexander George’s companies in Malaysia, knowingly taking part in an illicit operation that then shipped the parts to their final destination in Iran. In order to further disguise their illicit trade, George and the Attwaters decided to add yet another layer to the supply chain. According to the Guardian, they sent the parts to a company called “Wiky Global Corp”in the Netherlands, before they were sent to Malaysia and then Iran.The name of this Dutch company is similar to another company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Due to the complex nature of the supply routes, CPS (The Crown Prosecution Service) had to cooperate with HMRC to investigate the illegal trade chain with Iran and prove the criminal activities of related companies.
Besides the complex routes and detours that the British companies used for trading military hardware and dual-use items with Iran, certain loopholes in the complex legal procedures of different EU countries paved the way for further illicit trade. EU restrictions on exports of dual-use equipment to Iran are full of ambiguities and open to interpretations. The term "sanctions" is often used in media discourse about Iran and export bans. Quentin Michel, a professor of political science at the University of Liege in Belgium, disagreeswith the use of the word "sanctions" for dual-use goods. He told Zamaneh about the reasons for his disagreement:
“We do not have any real sanctions for dual-use items. But by definition, and since you will have to follow a specific procedure and comply with the rules, restrictive rules will make exportation more difficult. Of course, without these specific rules trade would be less complicated. Also, any kind of agreement among countries in this regard or any type of sanction can slow down the exportation process. If the EU passes the restrictions, the member countries are bound to implement them. But you will be surprised to see how the restrictions differ from one country to the other and what dual-use items have been subject to sanctions in each country.”
According to Quentin Michel, the implementation of export control laws for dual-use items and military hardware in EU countries is very complex and shows major differences. Michel went on to explain that no sanctions apply to European companies, but in order to sell certain goods, they need to obtain a legal license from the government:
“If a dual-use item is on the list, the company will have to obtain a certain export license from national authorities. But some companies don’t take these procedures seriously.”
This has clearly been the case with George and Attwaters’ companies. In fact, they knowingly opted out of obtaining an export license and instead tried to navigate their exportation of dual-use items and military hardware through third party companies and countries.
Alexnder George, from Bristol, is currently 79 and retired. According to an HMRC report, on 22 November 2018 he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and barred from being a company director for 9 years. PaulAttwater, who towards the end of the trial pleaded guilty and claimed they had been duped by George, and his wife Iris Attwater were both given a six-month suspended jail sentence for 12 months and barred from being company directors for six years.
Paul and Iris Attwater were both retired pensioners and ran their own home-business. They told the British news agency, Mirror, that they just wanted to make a bit of extra money to buy tickets for Crawley Town FC football match and a holiday under the sun. Apparently, Alexander George was a family friend and he had managed to get them involved in this risky, but lucrative business.
The retired couple stored and hid the aircraft parts in their attic before shipping them. They also counted and sorted 10,000 pieces of special nuts and bolts in their living room, but according to Iris Attwater, they never thought the bolts would be used for military purposes and were unaware of their final destination, Iran.
Despite allegations by Paul and Iris Attwater that they were unaware of the final destination of the goods and that they had been tricked by Alexander George, the judge presented evidence showing that in 2009 they had received a warning telling them they required a license for exporting the goods to Malaysia.
George shipped various parts and components of MiG-F-4 aircraft to Iran in 60 shipments viacompanies in Malaysia and Dubai. It has been estimated that George has made more than
£5 m profit (€5.5 m), while the Attwatres have earned about £500,000 (€555,000).
Over the past few decades, Iran and Britain have enjoyed stable and close trade relations, and nuclear tensions have not damaged this link much. Britain was a staunch supporter of JCPOA nuclear deal and strongly opposed US withdrawal. However, Britain has in recent years adhered to UN arms embargoes and EU restrictions on exports of weapons and dual-use goods against Iran.
Circumventing export restrictions: shipping gas turbines from the Netherlands to Iran via Bahrain
Fact Box: The present piece is an article based on research done by “DanWatch” and “Zamaneh” on “Iran’s international Network for the Procurement of military and dual-use equipment”. Over the past 13 years, Iran has been subject to the UN arms embargo. It has also faced limitations regarding the procurement of military and dual-use equipment put in place by the European Union since 2007. Nevertheless, during this period Iran has managed to procure arms and dual-use equipment from some European countries as well as the United States.
In the Box: Illicit trade of military and dual-use equipment despite international arms embargo, consists of a vast network of governments, organizations, individuals, companies and smugglers which functions through a complicated process. Over the past few years, this illicit, yet lucrative business has provided Iran’s regime with a detour to bypass international arms sanctions through which Iran has managed to procure some of the equipment and goods it required to further its missile and nuclear program. So far, a number of such clandestine trades have been traced and uncovered by European countries. In this research, we will look at the case of the Netherlands.
Over the past two decades, the relations between Iran and Netherlands has had many ups and downs. Using Stuxnet computer worm to damage Iran’s nuclear program by the Dutch security service (AIVD), the expulsion of two diplomats from the Iranian embassy in the Netherlands, the assassination of two members of the opposition by Iran in the Netherlands, and Iran’s clandestine trade activities in order to procure state of the art military equipment and dual-use items are some of the repercussions that the bumpy relations between the countries have yielded.
Before concluding the nuclear agreement (JCPOA), Iran used to go around international sanctions and procure specific parts and equipment such as vacuum pumps, gas turbines, dual-use goods and other military technology and equipment through the Netherlands as well as other countries. Since the enactment of the Export Control Order by the EU, the Netherlands has been committed to enforcing the rules. Nevertheless, some secret deals with Iran have continued.
In 2019, a Dutch company headed by a Dutch national originally from Iran, was put on trial for illicit export of gas turbines to Iran. On 18 February 2019 the Court of Maastricht in the Netherlands convicted the company Euroturbine BV, a Dutch supplier of gas turbines located in Weert, as well as its director and two employees, of unlicensed export of gas turbine components to Iran.According to a Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) report, the exports occurred between 2008 and 2010 after the UN and EU tightened their sanctions against Iran because of concerns regarding its nuclear program. During this period, the company applied for a license for the export of gas turbine components to Iran but the
license was not granted by the Dutch Government, and instead a catch-all notification was issued to Euroturbine on 10 February 2009.
This company, whose income largely depended on exports to Iran, instead of taking the catch-all notification seriously and complying with licensing regulations, used its network of shell companies in Bahrain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to circumvent Dutch export regulations. Euroturbine exported goods, including centrifugal compressors, ovens, moulds, blades and control panels, were all sold to companies connected to the Iranian Government.
The Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) began its investigations on illicit exports to Iran after they received information from the General Intelligence and Security Service (GISS) on the procurement by Iran of materials and technology for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including gas turbine parts, from the Netherlands. The Dutch intelligence services believed that the Iranian Ministry of Energy and its associated companies were involved in proliferation-sensitive activities and efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
Gas turbines are among dual-use equipment. In addition to nuclear power plants and military applications, gas turbines are used to power aircraft, trains, ships, electrical generators, or even tanks.
According to a detailed report published in 2019 by the Association of Certified Sanctions Specialists (ACSS),the director and employees of Euroturbine were arrested in 2010, although the trial did not begin until 2018. The main reason for the delay was the complexity of the transactions and the need forextensive cooperation between the Dutch authorities and authorities in other countries. The defendants were convicted of unauthorized exportation of dual-use items from the Netherlands, hiding the exports from the Dutch authorities- they claimed the goods were destined for an authorized European third country while aware that the real end-user was Iran- money laundering, and income tax fraud. During the trial, they tried to question the legality of the catch-all control to no avail as the prosecution managed to successfully demonstrate the legal basis of the control and the appropriateness of its use.
Fact box: Since the 1990’s, the United States and other EU supplier countries began the so- called “Catch-All” controls. These controls provided the legal basis wherebythe unlisted dual-use items’ export is subject to obtaining a license when there is reason to believe the items are intended for WMD or missile end use
Also, according to a report by the Limburg Province News Agency in February 2019, Euroturbine was fined €500,000 while an affiliated company based in Bahrain, called Euroturbine SPC, was fined €350,000.Euroturbine’s 66-year-old director, ParvizTavakoli, who lives in Venlo in the east of the Netherlands, was sentenced to 12 months’
imprisonment, 11 of which were suspended, and 240 hours of community service. The two employees, Jan H., 61, and Nadia H., 69, were sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment, 7 of which were suspended, and 200 and 180 hours of community service respectively. Similar to the case in Spain, this company’s trial also lasted around 8 years.
A total of € 850,000 in fines, which was also reflected in the Associated Press in 2019, was changed in 2020 and the court issued new verdicts against the defendants in this case. According to the first and second rulings of the Limburg District Court in the Netherlands and the Limburg Province News Agency, on 7 February 2020, the company and its subsidiary in Bahrain were sentenced to pay a total fine of more than €4,250,000 to the Dutch government. According to the court, this figure is equal to the profit the defendants have made from this illegal trade.
The news of the company’s conviction was also reflected in Iran’s state news agencies in 2019. The semi-official, Revolutionary Guards-affiliated Tasnim news agency, for example, complained that after US withdrawal from the JCPOA, EU in general and the Netherlands in particular, did not take any actions to back Iran’s trade and nuclear interests.
Access to the Euroturbine website is currently possible and it seems that the issuance of these rulings has not interfered with their practice. Zamaneh contacted Euroturbine in order to speak with ParvizTavakoli, the company's director. The person answering the call responded by saying that Tavakoli was not available at the moment, and that he would probably not be willing to talk to reporters.
Euroturbine also has an active head office in Tehran whose website has a .ir domain name. Their website is also currently accessible. Euroturbine cooperates with Mapna Group Company.
Mapna Group, is a private international manufacturing, industrial and trading company in Iran, with 41 subsidiaries, involved in development and execution of thermal power plants (steam, gas and combined cycle).They are also active in oil & gas projects, railway transportation projects, and investment services across Iran and the Middle East. Mapna is currently headquartered in Iraq, Indonesia, Syria and Algeria. The government of Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s President and a proponent of the privatization process, has always supported and commended this private company. Khuzestan MapnaToliBargh Company is one of the Iranian subsidiaries of Mapna, which is on the list of US secondary sanctions.
In its Handbook on Iran, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has emphasized Netherland’s continued commitment to the nuclear deal despite US withdrawal from JCPOA, affirming they will continue their trade relations with Iran. In the handbook under the chapter titled sanction requirements it has been stated that “The dual-use equipment trade has been resumed since 2016, with the exception of goods that could help uranium enrichment or the development of ballistic missiles.” The exportation of such goods to non-EU countries is subject to procurement of an export license.
The wide range of goods that fall into dual-use category alongside the complex nature of their different civil and military uses on one hand, and the high profits of trading with Iran for the European countries on the other, was the reason why we decided to ask Mark Akkerman, investigative journalist and researcher at Stop Wapenhandel (Dutch Campaign Against Arms Trade) to tell us more about the mechanisms and the process of illicit export from Europe to Iran.
He told Zamaneh:
“As far as the dual-use items for civil use are concerned, for example goods exported from the Netherlands for oil and gas projects, there are no problems. Although, I think a few weapons and dual-use items for military purposes have also been delivered, but in my opinion the enforcement of the sanctions has, all in all, been successful. European countries must comply with the arms and dual-use items embargos. Reviving the nuclear deal with Iran is a good idea and US withdrawal in 2015 should be condemned.Nonetheless, there still exist enough reasons to be concerned about the situation of human rights in Iran and country’s role in regional instability, and therefore, sanctions should still be kept in place.”
The UN arms embargo against Iran was lifted on October 18. Now that the UN arms embargo are lifted, will Iran be able to easily acquire dual-use equipment and arms? Zamaneh asked Frank Slijper, the Programme Leader on the Arms Trade at PAX, based in the Netherlands, what he thought about the future of dual-use items exports to Iran once the sanctions are lifted. He said:
“This is not going to make any difference with regard to European companies at the moment. EU arms embargo on Iran will remain in place at least until 2023. The outcomes of the present nuclear deal will determine EU’s approach afterwards.”
EU export restrictions will be in force until 2023, but they can be extended indefinitely.