New York to Indict Iran Shipping Lines

New York to Indict Iran Shipping Lines

New York City’s district attorney will indict Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines on Monday on charges that it is part of Iran's effort to obtain banned technology for its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report in The New York Times.

The indictment charges that IRISL illegally funneled tens of millions of dollars in financial transactions through the American banking system over the past three years, evading sanctions by cloaking itself in corporate alter egos and falsifying records.

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The 317-count indictment charges the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 15 other defendants with conspiracy to set up shell companies in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. to trick major clearing banks in New York, like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank, into sending and receiving more than $60 million worth of payments.

The subterfuge was necessary, prosecutors said, because the Iranian company needed access to U.S. banks to compete in a shipping industry that primarily does business in dollar denominations. American sanctions imposed in 2008 require U.S. banks to block and seize the proceeds from any transactions made in the names of IRISL or its known affiliates.

Israeli forces have been active this spring in blocking suspected Iranian shipments of illegal armaments. Israeli commandos boarded a CMA CGM chartered container ship on March 15 that was bound for Egypt allegedly carrying weapons for militant groups in the Gaza Strip. 

The New York grand jury indictment, the result of a 14-month investigation, represents the first time IRISL has faced criminal charges, the Times said.

New York District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the indictment demonstrated to Iran that his office would not remain idle while New York banks, “which stand at the forefront of international commerce,” were abused.

The Times said the enforcement of government sanctions is primarily the responsibility of the Treasury Department, but the district attorney’s office has a history of working closely with the federal government in this arena, claiming criminal jurisdiction because international dollar-denominated transactions are cleared through New York banks.

-- Contact Peter T. Leach at pleach@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @petertleach.