Archive for the ‘Violations & Fines’ Category

Use Caution: Air Cargo Industry Experiences Increasing Compliance Regulations

2018/06/29

By: Ashleigh Foor

(Source: Bobsguide, 29 May 2018.)

Air cargo industry, be warned: regulations are ever-increasing in 2018, leading to more fines and penalties for those involved in illegal trade. A Maersk company recently violated international sanctions by carrying arms components with the potential for military use from North Korea to Egypt. This is just one example of what appears to be a lack of strong compliance procedures that diligently screen parties, goods, and destinations involved in a transport.

The use of air cargo continues to increase as it is the fastest means of transport for sending goods all over the world, but with many high profile sanctions breaches in the news many are left wondering if the industry can abide by these increasing regulations while still fulfilling the need for speedy exports. These new levels of regulation are due to the air cargo industry being used to launder money and fulfill terrorist objectives. Air cargo companies are currently required to check Airway Bills (AWBs) against sanctions and dual-use goods watch lists. Noncompliance can lead to hefty fines, loss of export/import privileges, along with reputational damage and even prison time.

The air cargo industry is in danger of losing its competitive advantage – speed – due to the burden of compliance regulations. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) believes that if these increased regulations are not dealt with and followed efficiently then costs will increase – slowing transit and hurting the industry’s unique selling point.

Currently, around 50% of AWBs globally are still processed on paper rather than electronically (e-AWBs). IATA is highly recommending a change from outdated paper-based processes to automated and digital screening solutions so that airway bills are verified with speed and accuracy. Companies that still rely on manual checks are at an immediate disadvantage.

One air cargo company leading the way in overhauling its compliance processes is Lufthansa Cargo. They have implemented a digital sanctions and dual-use goods screening engine that automatically checks cargo documentation to identify any irregularities that could pose a risk. The technology scans descriptions of goods to identify if they have the potential for military use as well as checks origin and destination locations to confirm the cargo is not moving to or from a sanctioned territory.

With all of the changes taking place and scandals in the headlines recently, automation and digitization of processes are not simply great goals to strive towards – they’re expected and necessary for staying compliant. Air cargo companies must evolve to meet higher regulatory requirements, and ultimately, to do their part in protecting global security.


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


The Fall and Rise of ZTE

2018/05/30

By: Danielle Hatch

In early 2017 China’s largest telecommunications company agreed to pay a nearly $900 million penalty to the US after entering a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. ZTE was charged with 380 violations of the EAR, including (1) Conspiracy (2) Acting with Knowledge of a violation in Connection with Unlicensed Shipments of Telecommunications Items to North Korea via China and (3) Evasion. The company also entered into a settlement with OFAC for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”; 31 CFR Part 560). More Information on these charges can be found here.

A March 2017 Order suspended the 7-year denial of ZTE’s export privileges as well as $300 million of the nearly $900 million penalty if ZTE complied with several probationary conditions. The conditions required ZTE, among other things, to submit six audit reports related to their compliance with US export regulations as well as truthful disclosures of any requested information (Section 764.2(g) of the EAR).

One of the many requirements of The Settlement Agreement and March 2017 Order was that ZTE provide BIS with a status report on specific employees related to the violations found during the investigation or identified in two letters (sent November 30, 2016 and July 20, 2017) that ZTE sent to employees regarding the violations. During BIS’s investigation there were 9 specific employees named related to violations, later, ZTE would identify a total of 39 employees who would have action taken against them related to the violations.

ZTE’s November letter to employees was sent while BIS was investigating the company’s violations and ZTE explained that they had self-initiated employee disciplinary actions that it had begun to take as well as additional actions that they would take in the future that would, be “necessary to achieve the Company’s goals of disciplining those involved and sending a strong message to ZTE employees about the Company’s commitment to compliance.”

ZTE’s July letter was similar to the November letter and once again asserted the company’s commitment to compliance and claimed that the disciplinary actions had sent a strong message to ZTE employees. The letter “confirmed that the measures detailed by ZTE with respect to discipline have been implemented” specifically to the nine named employees identified during the investigation. It should be noted that the individuals that were identified by enforcement agents were those that were signatories on an internal ZTE memorandum on how to evade US export controls or were identified on that memorandum as a “project core member” and/or had met with ZTE’s then CEO to discuss means to continue to evade US laws. In a nutshell, BIS wanted to see that ZTE had reprimanded the 39 employees and officials that were related to the violations through the two letters that they sent.

Cue the problem, which ultimately caused BIS to propose activation of suspended sanctions. ZTE didn’t really send those letters of reprimand as timely as they had led BIS to believe. Come to find out, the November 30, 2016 letter wasn’t sent to employees until February 2, 2018. Not to mention, all but one of the identified individuals received their full 2016 bonus, ZTE originally said this compensation would either be cancelled or decreased.

On March 6, 2018, ZTE indicated, via outside counsel that it had made false statements in the November and July letters. On March 13, 2018 BIS notified ZTE of a proposed activation of the sanctions conditionally-suspended under the Settlement Agreement and the March 2017 Order based on the company breaking the cooperation provision related to providing the US government with false statements. The notice letter to ZTE gave the company an opportunity to respond, of which they provided the following (found in FR 17646):

“In its letter, ZTE confirmed the false statements and, as discussed further infra, posed certain questions in rhetorical fashion. ZTE then proceeded to summarize its response upon ‘‘discovering’’ the failure to implement the stated employee disciplinary actions prior to March 2018, including its decision to notify BIS of the failures. The company also described the asserted remedial steps it had taken to date, including the issuance in March 2018, of the letters of reprimand that were to have been sent in 2016–2017. ZTE additionally asserted that, for current employees whose 2016 bonus should have been reduced (by 30% to 50%), it would deduct the corresponding amount from their 2017 annual bonuses ‘‘to the extent permitted under Chinese law.’’ ZTE also said it will pursue recovery from (certain) former employees of bonus payments for 2016 that the company had informed the U.S. Government would be reduced, but, contrary to those statements, were paid in full. Finally, ZTE reiterated what it described as the company’s serious commitment to export control compliance and summarized its plan to continue its internal investigation of the matter.”

Ultimately, the US Government found that this was the last straw for ZTE. They released the following statement and activated the suspended denial order in full and to suspend the export privileges for ZTE for a period of seven years (until March 13, 2025).

“In issuing the March 13, 2018 notice letter to ZTE, and in considering ZTE’s response, I have taken into account the course of ZTE’s dealings with the U.S. Government during BIS’s multi-year investigation, which demonstrate a pattern of deception, false statements, and repeated violations. I note the multiple false and misleading statements made to the U.S. Government during its investigation of ZTE’s violations of the Regulations, and the behavior and actions of ZTE since then. ZTE’s July 20, 2017 letter is brimming with false statements in violation of § 764.2(g) of the Regulations and is the latest in a pattern of the company making untruthful statements to the U.S. Government and only admitting to its culpability when compelled by circumstances to do so. That pattern can be seen in the November 30, 2016 letter, which falsely documented steps the company said it was taking and had taken, as well as in the 96 admitted evasion violations described in the PCL, which detailed the company’s efforts to destroy evidence of its continued export control violations.”

Here’s where the story gets interesting…

On May 13, 2018 President Donald Trump pledged in a tweet to help give ZTE “a way back into business, fast,” “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” Trump tweeted, adding that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help the company resume operations.

A day later, amid criticism over why Chinese jobs were a priority during trade and investment negotiations with China, Trump tweeted: “ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”

Just last week it was released that a deal was in the works between Commerce and China that would involve China buying more US farm goods and removing tariffs on imported US agricultural products in exchange for the denial order against ZTE to be reconsidered. ZTE would still face “harsh” punishment, including enforced changes of management and changes at the board level.

Rumors are swirling that there was a “handshake deal” on ZTE between U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He during talks in Washington last week that would remove the ban in exchange for the purchase of more US agricultural products. Another person said China may eliminate tariffs on US agriculture products it assessed in response to US steel duties, and that ZTE could still be forced to replace its leadership, among other penalties. Both sources said the deal, which has not been confirmed, will likely be finalized before or during a planned trip by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to Beijing next week to help reach a broader trade pact to avert a trade war.

Additional Details:

Federal Register: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-04-23/pdf/2018-08354.pdf

Article: https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-china-zte-talks/update-1-u-s-china-nearing-deal-to-remove-u-s-sales-ban-against-zte-sources-idUSL3N1ST1WX

Article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-zte-ban/chinas-zte-says-main-business-operations-cease-due-to-u-s-ban-idUSKBN1IA1XF


Turkish Banker Receives 32 Months for Violating U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Involving Billions of Dollars

2018/05/30

By: Ashleigh Foor

On January 3, 2018, a five-week jury trial wrapped up and convicted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, 47, a resident and citizen of Turkey, to 32 months for conspiring with others in a scheme to violate U.S. economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The violation involved billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil proceeds held at Atilla’s employer (Turkish Bank-1).

Atilla, a Turkish banker, Reza Zarrab, an international gold trader, and others defrauded U.S. financial institutions by using them to conduct transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities which were barred by U.S. sanction. They did so by making these transactions falsely appear as if they involved food, therefore falling within humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions regime.

Atilla lied to U.S. Treasury officials about Turkish Bank-1’s activities and its supposed compliance efforts to avoid subjecting the bank to U.S. sanctions. Atilla and his co-conspirators’ deceptions led U.S. banks to unknowingly process international financial transactions in violation of the IEEPA, and to launder through the U.S. financial system funds promoting the scheme.


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


Company Pays $1,220,400 for 37 Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations

2018/02/08

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced in December 2017, a $1,220,400 settlement with DENTSPLY SIRONA INC. (DSI), a US company with the successor in interest to DENTSPLY International Inc. (“DII” and, together with DSI, “DENTSPLY”) to settle a potential civil liability for 37 apparent violations of § 560.204 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR).

Around November 26, 2009 and July 5, 2012, DII subsidiaries UK International (“UKI”) and DS Healthcare Inc. (d.b.a. Sultan Healthcare), (“Sultan”), exported 37 shipments of dental equipment and supplies from the US, directly or indirectly to Iran, to distributors in third-countries, with knowledge or reason to know that the goods were ultimately destined for Iran.  OFAC determined that DII did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case.

Full Details: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171206.aspx


US Firms Part Ways with China’s ZTE Monitor

2018/02/08

In early 2017 China’s largest telecommunications company agreed to pay a nearly $900 million penalty to the US after entering a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. ZTE was charged with 380 violations of the EAR, including (1) Conspiracy (2) Acting with Knowledge of a violation in Connection with Unlicensed Shipments of Telecommunications Items to North Korea via China and (3) Evasion. The company also entered into a settlement with OFAC for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”; 31 CFR Part 560). More Information on these charges can be found here.

Part of the settlement with OFAC required the company to hire an initial independent compliance monitor approved by the US government for a three-year term. The monitor is responsible for preparing the initial three annual audit reports to be provided to the US government. In addition, ZTE had to hire an independent compliance auditor, also approved by the US government, for an additional three years to prepare the remaining three annual audit reports.

Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International were hired in June 2017 by the US monitor, James Stanton, a Texas civil and personal injury lawyer in charge of the oversite regime for ZTE. Stanton’s job is to help evaluate ZTE’s US export controls compliance and sanctions laws, and mitigate any future violations. US District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who presided over the ZTE sanctions case, actually rewrote the agreement to put Stanton in charge of monitoring the company before signing off on the plea deal. It has been said that Stanton has a lack of experience in US trade controls and the order naming him is sealed, leaving the reasoning behind the judge’s decision unclear. This situation is a bit of an anomaly because generally, the Department of Justice chooses an independent monitor in corporate criminal cases from candidates proposed by the company, which is how the agreement was originally written before Judge Kinkeade rewrote it. ZTE and the Justice Department agreed to Judge Kinkeade’s choice and the changes to the monitorship agreement, sources said, because the plea had already been negotiated and filed in the judge’s court and a temporary license allowing ZTE to continue to obtain US made goods was about to expire.

In December 2017, rumors broke out that Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International had resigned in August 2017 from the job of actively auditing ZTE. Although the exact reason is unclear, some say it was a result of  Stanton restricting their access to ZTE documents and officials, which ultimately hindered their ability to effectively monitor the company. Stanton’s first report was due to the US government last month and this report, as well as the subsequent 2 reports will decide whether the company is liable for an additional fine of $300 million or being added to the US denial list.

Nearly all parties related to the case, including Guidepost Solutions, Larkin Trade International, Judge Ed Kinkeade, and James Stanton have all declined requests for comments based on this news. Additional details about this story and the ties between Judge Kinkeade and James Stanton can be found at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-zte-exclusive/u-s-experts-resign-from-monitoring-chinas-zte-corp-sources-idUSKBN1EG03R


Seiler Instrument to Pay $1.5 Million in Forfeiture to the United States

2018/02/08

Source: Department of Justice

Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing Company, Inc., a Kirkwood-based defense contractor, admits fault to the company’s use of optical materials imported from China in the weapons sights which the company improperly certified as compliant with the Buy American Act and will pay the United States $1,500,000.00 in forfeiture. The company manufactured the parts under a series of contracts with the Department of Defense. Pursuant to a pretrial diversion agreement Seiler Instrument has made an initial payment of $500,000.00 and will make additional payments of $500,000.00 in each of the next two years. The company also agrees to enter a plea of guilty to a false statement charge in the event that the company does not meet the full terms of the agreement.

Seiler Instrument is a long-time defense contractor which specializes in the production of fire control systems, including sighting devices for weapons, which are used on all United States Military Howitzer and mortar systems.  The pretrial agreement concluded after an investigation into the company’s business practices and how its proceedings reflect import and export regulations governing the procurement of materials used to manufacture defense systems. Two of these provisions include the Buy American Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations which place limitations on the export of restricted technical data used in the procurement and manufacturing process to countries such as China. The agreement states that Seiler Instrument took actions to correct problems and has further agreed to have its compliance program monitored by the Department of Defense.

This case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General), the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Army CID Major Procurement Fraud Unit and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security – Office of Export Enforcement, Chicago Field Office. The Defense Contract Management Agency also provided substantial assistance in this investigation.

More Details: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edmo/pr/seiler-instrument-pay-15-million-forfeiture-united-states


Whirlpool Europe Srl (Italy)/Whirlpool Corporation to Pay Civil Settlements to Settle Alleged Antiboycott Violations

2017/11/15

By: Ashleigh Foor (Source: Commerce/BIS)

On September 25, 2017, Whirlpool Europe Srl (Italy) was charged with three violations of 15 CFR 760.2(a), refusal to do business, ten violations of 15 CFR 760.2(d), furnishing information about business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons, and eight violations of 15 CFR 760.5, failing to report the receipt of a request to engage in a restrictive trade practice or foreign boycott against a country friendly to the United States (Case No: 14-02(A)). A civil settlement of $72,450, if paid as agreed, will keep Whirlpool from being debarred or suspended from export transactions.

Related case number 14-02(B) involves Whirlpool Corporation. The company received a civil settlement of $9,000 for three violations of 15 CFR 760.2(d), furnishing information about business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons. No debarment or suspension will be placed if penalty is paid as agreed.


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.