Archive for the ‘Enforcement’ Category

Texas Man Sentenced to 6 years in Prison for Cuba Embargo Violations

2018/10/30

By: Danielle Hatch

Bryan Evan Singer, 46, of Bryan Texas was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison on September 27, 2018 for attempting to export electronic devices to Cuba. On May 2, 2017 Singer was traveling from Stock Island, Florida to Havana, Cuba via his boat “La Mala” when law enforcement stopped him to conduct an outbound inspection of the boat. During the inspection, Singer explained that he was only taking items to Cuba that were on the deck of his boat and that the value of the items was less than $2,500 (possibly suspicious or a red flag). Law enforcement continued to search the boat and found a hidden compartment under a bolted down bed in the cabin where they discovered over $30,000 worth of electronic devices. Of those devices, there were 300 Ubiquiti Nanostation Network devices which allow for highly encrypted connections between computer networks over long distances, making a license required to export them to Cuba.

Singer did not apply for a license for the items…in case you didn’t already guess that.

Justice: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/texas-resident-sentenced-south-florida-more-6-years-prison-violations-cuban-embargo


OFAC Reaches $5 Million Settlement with JPMorgan Chase Bank

2018/10/30

By: Danielle Hatch

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced this month that it had reached a $5,263,171 settlement with JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. for 87 violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations.

The transactions were net settlement payments with a very small portion being provided to the interests of airlines that were on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List), blocked pursuant to OFAC sanctions, or located in countries subject to OFAC sanctions. The transactions included airline freight charges which are not exempt from the prohibitions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

On a separate issue, OFAC issued a Finding of Violation to JPMC for violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations and the Syrian Sanctions Regulations. Between 2011 and 2014 JPMC processed 85 transactions worth $46,127.04 held accounts on behalf of six customers who were on the SDN list.

In both situations JPMC voluntarily disclosed the violations and they were considered to be non-egregious violations by OFAC.

Settlement Agreement: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20181005.aspx


Chinese Intelligence Officer Charged with Espionage and Stealing Trade Secrets

2018/10/30

By: Danielle Hatch

Yanjun Xu (aka Qu Hui and aka Zhang Hui), a Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and stealing trade secrets from several US aviation and aerospace companies. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. It has the power to conduct espionage both in China and abroad.

The indictment explains that from 2013 to 2018, Xu targeted certain aviation companies (in and outside of the US) and proceeded to contact specific experts who worked within those companies. Xu was able to get some of them to travel to China, under the pretense that they would be delivering a university presentation. These employees travel was paid for in addition to stipends by Xu. GE Aviation was one of the companies listed in the indictment that Xu encountered.

Xu was extradited to the US this month, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division explained, “This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposed the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States.”

Justice: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chinese-intelligence-officer-charged-economic-espionage-involving-theft-trade-secrets-leading


Chinese National Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Illegal Exports

2018/10/29

By: Danielle Hatch

Si Chen, 33, known as “Cathy Chen” plead guilty to illegally exporting sensitive space communications technology to China was sentenced this month to 46 months in prison. Chen was arrested in May 2017 after an investigation by the Office of Export Enforcement uncovered her elaborate scheme involving illegal exports, money laundering, and forged passports.

Court documents show that from March 2013 to the end of 2015, Chen purchased and smuggled “jammers” which are used in military communications as well as devices used in space communication applications. The devices were worth more than $100,000 and required a license from the Department of Commerce for regional stability and national security reasons. Chen forged her passport, she used a Chinese passport with her photo on it and the name, “Chunping Ji” which she used to rent an office in Pomona, California where she would receive the export-controlled items. After she had the items, she would then ship them to Hong Kong using the false name on the passport, false product descriptions, and she undervalued the items on the shipping documents to avoid red flags or suspicions. Once the items reached Hong Kong they were then transshipped to China. Chen received the money for the items via an account at a bank in China in one of her family member’s names once the items reached China.

United States Attorney Nick Hana explained during the sentencing, “This defendant knowingly participated in a plot to secretly send items with military applications to China. The smuggled items would be used in a number of damaging ways, including in equipment that could jam our satellite communications. We will aggressively target all persons who provide foreign agents with technology in violation of US law.”

Justice: https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/pomona-woman-sentenced-federal-prison-scheme-smuggle-restricted-space-communications


Owner of Defense Firm Charged with Defrauding DOD out of 7 Million in Contracts

2018/09/27

By: Danielle Hatch

Ferdi Murat Gul (Fred Gul), 42, of Turkey has been indicted by a grand jury on the following counts:

  • One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud
  • Six counts of wire fraud
  • One count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA)
  • Once substantive count of violating the Arms Export Control Act

Gul is the principal owner, chief executive office, and general manager of Bright Machinery Manufacturing Group Inc. (BMM), a defense contracting company in New Jersey and FMG Machinery Group (FMG), a purported manufacturing company in New York. He also has an ownership interest in HFMG Insaat (HFMG), a manufacturing company located in Turkey.

Between October 2010 and June 2015 Gul would submit bids for DoD contracts for BMM, he would submit quotes based on BMM providing military goods manufactured in the US. BMM actually relied on Gul’s Turkish company, HFMG for the goods. Over the course of 5 years BMM was awarded approximately $7 million in DoD contracts. BMM fraudulently won 346 contracts to manufacture torpedoes for the US Navy, bomb ejector racks, and armament utilized in US Air Force aircraft, and firearms and mine clearance systems used by US military abroad. Later testing by the DoD exposed the some parts had several design flaws and were unusable.

Gul and his conspirators hid the fraudulent activity from the government by submitting forged certifications and fabricated information by email to DoD. They also falsely claimed that they performed quality control on the procedures and parts sold to DoD. To have HFMG create the parts for BMM, Gul exported drawings and technical data to Turkey. Some of this information was subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and required a license form the State Department.

The wire fraud counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The Arms Export Control Act violations carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Ferdi Murat Gul is currently at large and believed to be in Turkey. Also remember…The charges and allegations of this indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty (cue sound from Law & Order).

Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/owner-defense-firm-charged-conspiracy-defraud-department-defense-7-million-violate-arms


Swedish Telecom Company Pays Penalty for Sanctions Violation

2018/08/30

By: Thad McBride on July 19, 2018

Thad McBride is a member at Bass, Berry & Sims PLC (Washington, DC) and leads the firm’s International Trade Practice Group. He regularly counsels clients on compliance matters related to economic sanctions and embargoes, export controls, CFIUS, US anti-boycott controls, customs, and other import controls. In addition, he guides clients through internal audits and investigations and represents companies facing government investigations and enforcement actions. He is a regular contributor to the firm’s Government Contracts and International Trade blog and can be reached at tmcbride@bassberry.com

POSTED IN INTERNATIONAL TRADESANCTIONS (OFAC)

  • Ericsson Caused Violation by Having U.S. Party Ship Equipment to Sudan
  • U.S. Employee Facilitated Sudan Business
  • OFAC Expects Parties Conducting International Business to Have Robust Compliance Processes

In June 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that Ericsson, a Swedish telecommunications company, agreedto pay approximately $145,000 for violating U.S. sanctions on Sudan.  Among other things, this is one of the few OFAC enforcement actions explicitly premised on a non-U.S. actor causing a U.S. company to violate U.S. sanctions.

Non-U.S. Companies Can Violate Sanctions If They Cause a Violation

According to OFAC, the violations involved Ericsson, AB (EAB), which is based in Sweden, causing a U.S. seller of a satellite hub to export that hub from the United States to Sudan.  Interestingly, in connection with EAB’s purchase of the satellite hub, an EAB employee communicated about the matter with Ericsson’s compliance department.  In those communications, the EAB employee was informed that the purchase of the satellite would violate Ericsson’s sanctions compliance policy.

Yet the EAB employee proceeded with the acquisition, with support from an Ericsson employee in the United States.  OFAC asserted that the two Ericsson employees agreed to identify “Botswana” as the destination of the satellite hub.  The EAB employee then structured the acquisition so that the satellite hub was shipped through several other countries, including with help from a third party in Lebanon, before eventually arriving in Sudan.

U.S. Employee Facilitated Transaction by Supporting the Sudan Business

It appears that, when the Ericsson U.S. employee was first contacted by his counterparts at EAB, he informed them that he could not be involved in any Sudan business.  But subsequently, he did assist his EAB counterparts by providing technical guidance related to the Sudan project.  (The U.S. employee sent one e-mail related to Sudan in which “East Africa” was listed as the subject of the e-mail.)  The U.S. employee also met in person with an EAB employee to discuss the project.

There is no indication that the U.S. employee had any role in purchasing or shipping the satellite hub to Sudan.  Nonetheless, by providing guidance and advice about the Sudan project, the U.S. employee facilitated that project and thereby violated U.S. sanctions on Sudan.  Like other U.S. sanctions programs, under U.S. sanctions on Sudan, U.S. persons were prohibited from indirectly supporting (or facilitating) a project in Sudan that the U.S. person could not engage in directly.

Conduct Occurred Well Before Recent Lifting of U.S. Sanctions on Sudan

As we have discussed in prior blog posts (see this January 2018 blog post), it typically takes a long time for OFAC to impose penalties for sanctions violations.  The conduct at issue in the Ericsson matter occurred in 2011 and 2012.  Ericsson tolled the statute of limitations during OFAC’s investigation of the matter.

In fact, by the time Ericsson agreed to settle the matter, U.S. sanctions on Sudan had been lifted.  However, the U.S. government does maintain export controls on Sudan under the Export Administration Regulations.  As a result, an export license is needed to export most U.S.-origin items to Sudan, even though economic sanctions have been lifted.

This illustrates one of the practical challenges for U.S. companies considering business in Sudan.  Discussions about that business and even the provision of business services are generally permitted without a license.  Actual exports of products still usually require a license.  So Sudan is not entirely open for business from a U.S. perspective.

Compliance Is Complicated, Appropriate Resources Are Needed

The compliance narrative in this matter is jumbled.  As detailed above, the Ericsson compliance department advised the EAB employee – correctly – about the potential liability associated with Sudan business.  The U.S. employee of Ericsson originally responded to requests related to Sudan by stating his inability to work on a Sudan project.  Yet both the EAB employee and the Ericsson U.S. employee proceeded with the Sudan business.

This seems on its face like a situation in which company employees went rogue.  Notably, the company disclosed the violation to OFAC, which is one reason that OFAC imposed a penalty well below the statutory maximum amount (roughly $360,000).

Yet in imposing any penalty, OFAC indicates that Ericsson could have done better.  In particular, in the press release related to the matter, OFAC states the following:

This enforcement action highlights the importance of empowering compliance personnel to prevent transactions prohibited by U.S. economic and trade sanctions.  Entities should ensure their sanctions compliance teams are adequately staffed, receive sufficient technology and other resources, and are delegated appropriate authority to ensure compliance efforts meet an entity’s risk profile.

The Bass, Berry & Sims international trade team works closely with clients to assess their risks and put in place effective, cost-efficient measures to prevent and detect trade compliance violations.  OFAC clearly expects such measures.  Feel free to contact us anytime if we can assist in developing and implementing them.


Company Fined $155,000 for Screening Related Violations

2018/08/30

By: Danielle Hatch

Mohawk Global Logistics Corp. has been fined $155,000 for 3 violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) related to exporting to companies on the Entity List.

Around August 2012 Mowhawk exported an LNP-20 Liquid Nitrogen Plant (EAR99 and valued at $33,587) to the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF). The company had a screening process in place and when they screened VNIIEF they got a hit and the shipment was initially flagged. During the BIS investigation Mowhawk acknowledged that the export supervisor accidently overrode (or ignored) the red flag and the shipment was processed. Mowhawk filed EEI and listed the shipment as No License Required (NLR) which would have been accurate had the end user not been on the Entity List. Since VNIIEF is a denied party a license is always required to export any items subject to the EAR. This was the 1st of 3 total charges.

In February 2014 and August 2015, Mokhawk once again exported to an organization on the Entity List, but this time they were in China. The company exported Real-Time Back Reflection Laue Camera Detectors and Accessories (EAR99 and valued at $177,156) to the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC). Once again, Mowhawk used screening software, but this time it failed to flag the transaction because Mowhawk didn’t screen UESTC’s full, unabbreviated name. This could be a common mistake, however, all of the documents that UESTC provided to Mowhawk clearly identified UESTC’s full name as it was listed on the Entity List along with an almost exact matching address. The shipment was processed in February 2014 and they filed EEI as NLR. As with the first charge, had the export not gone to someone on the Entity List a license likely would not have been required.

In August 2015 Mowhawk exported the same exact items to UESTC after they had been returned for warranty repair. This time, Mowhawk didn’t screen the transaction at all using their screening software and there was no EEI filed in connection with this particular export to UESTC. These transactions were charges 2 and 3.

Settlement Agreement:

  • Pay $135,000 in 3 separate payments
  • Payment of the remaining $20,000 is suspended as long as the company pays the $135,000 on time.
  • If payments are not received on time, BIS may issue an order denying all of Mowhawk’s export privileges
  • Mowhawk can’t take any action or make any public statement denying the allegations in the BIS Charging Letter or Order

Order and Charging Letter: https://efoia.bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/export-violations/export-violations-2018/1193-e2561/file


ZTE Chairman Promises No MORE Violations & US Imposes Most Severe Penalty to Date

2018/06/29

By: Danielle Hatch

ZTE Chairman Yin Yimin released a letter in the first part of June to customers and employees promising that there would be no further compliance violations. He apologized to customers for the disruption that the violations of US export controls caused and apologized to ZTE’s 80,000 employees whose jobs were in jeopardy after ZTE was put on the US denial list and no longer had access to US technology which suspended most of the company’s operations. **An employee who asked not to be identified further confirmed Yin sent a letter but would not confirm its contents.

The US did agree to restore ZTE’s access to US components in hopes of reducing the likelihood of a prolonged escalation of tensions over tariffs.

Yimin’s letter did say that the issue will not be fully resolved until the US government approves the agreement and unspecified conditions are met. Below you will find the conditions specified by BIS.

BIS will remove ZTE from the DPL Denied Persons List after ZTE makes the required payment and deposit into escrow. Under the new agreement, ZTE must pay $1 billion and place an additional $400 million in suspended penalty money in escrow before BIS will remove ZTE from the Denied Persons List. These penalties are in addition to the $892 million in penalties ZTE has already paid to the U.S government under the March 2017 settlement agreement.Within 30 days of the date of the order, BIS will select and ZTE shall retain at its expense an independent Special Compliance Coordinator (“SCC”) to coordinate, monitor, assess, and report on compliance by ZTE and its subsidiaries and affiliates worldwide. This team of Special Compliance Coordinators will be answerable to BIS for a period of 10 years. Their function will be to monitor on a real-time basis ZTE’s compliance with U.S. export control laws. This is the first time BIS has achieved such stringent compliance measures in any case. These collectively are the most severe penalty BIS has ever imposed on a company.

ZTE must also:

  • Replace the entire board of directors and senior leadership for both entities
  • Complete and submit nine audit reports of its compliance with U.S. export control laws;
    Ensure that all records required to be kept or retained under the Regulations are stored in or fully accessible from the United States;
  • Publish on its website all Export Control Classification Numbers as necessary to determine applicable requirements;
  • Hold two public symposia in China regarding compliance with applicable U.S. export control regulations.
  • Suspended Debarment: 10 years from the date of this order, unless ZTE completes the full and timely payment as described above.

BIS Press Release: https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2018/06/secretary-ross-announces-14-billion-zte-settlement-zte-board-management

Order: https://efoia.bis.doc.gov/index.php/documents/export-violations/export-violations-2018/1181-e2556/file

Details: https://www.mytwintiers.com/news/report-zte-chairman-promises-no-more-violations-apologizes/1225834182


Trilogy International Associates, Inc. and William Michael Johnson Each Receives $100,000 Civil Penalty for Export Violations

2018/04/04

By: Ashleigh Foor

On or about January 23, 2010, April 6, 2010, and May 14, 2010, Trilogy International Associates, Inc., of Altaville, CA exported an explosives detector and a total of 115 analog-to-digital converters to Russia. These items are subject to the EAR and controlled on national security grounds. The items were classified under Export Control Classification Numbers 1A004 and 3A001, respectively, and valued in total at approximately $76,035. Each of the items required a license for export to Russia pursuant to Section 742.4 of the EAR.

Between, on, or about January 20, 2010 and May 14, 2010, William Michael Johnson of Angels Camp, CA, caused, aided, and/or abetted three violations of the EAR, specifically three exports from the United States to Russia of items subject to the EAR without the required BIS export licenses.

Charges include:

  • Three Charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(a) – Engaging in Prohibited Conduct
  • Three charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(b) – Causing, Aiding, or Abetting a Violation

Penalty:

  • Civil penalty of $100,000 against Trilogy International Associates, Inc.
  • Civil penalty of $100,000 against William Michael Johnson
  • Debarred: Both Trilogy International Associates, Inc. and William Michael Johnson are denied export privileges for a period of 10 years from the date of this Order, until 26 February 2028.

Date of Order: 26 February 2018


Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA Receives 18 Charges of Alleged Export Violations

2017/11/15

By: Ashleigh Foor

On September 25, 2017, Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA was charged a civil penalty of $230,000 due to engaging in conduct prohibited by the EAR when it exported items subject to the EAR from the United States to China and Russia without the required BIS Licenses. On eighteen separate occasions between, on, or around October 14, 2011 and July 14, 2014, Miltech exported active multiplier chains, items classified under Export Control Classification Number (“ECCN”) 3A001.b.4 and valued in total at approximately $364,947, without seeking or obtaining the licenses required for these exports pursuant to section 742.4 of the EAR. These items are controlled on national security and anti-terrorism grounds.

Miltech received 18 charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(a) for engaging in prohibited conduct. $180,000 of the $230,000 penalty must be paid within 30 days, and the remaining $50,000 will be suspended and waived after two years if Miltech fulfills the terms of its settlement agreement and this order.  The company will not be debarred if penalty is paid as agreed and Miltech complies with other terms of this settlement.