JULY 25, 2012 — Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director, Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, has warned Inmarsat not to provide prohibited services to Iranian oil tankers and Iranian military vessels.
Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, is an Israeli based civil rights organization that works against terrorist organizations and regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world. Its warning to Inmarsat on Iran is not its first clash with the telecommunications giant.
In June 2011, Shurat HaDin brought legal action in U.S. Federal Court in Miami against Inmarsat for continuing to support ships seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Shurat HaDin said that Inmarsat’s services provided communications to the Mavi Marmara and other ships that participated in the Gaza flotilla of May 2010. The case was filed in a Federal Court in Miami.
Today, Shurat HaDin wrote Imarsat warning it against providing prohibited guidance services to Iranian oil tankers and Iranian military vessels. The warning letter stressed that Inmarsat’s actions would expose the telecommunications giant to criminal prosecution and civil liability from Americans and others who suffer as a result of Iran’s international sponsorship of terrorism.
The move followed a recent Obama administration decision to slap additional Treasury Department sanctions on Iranian vessels, which have been found to be facilitating Teheran’s nuclear weapons program and global terrorist network. Despite this, says Shurat HaDin, Inmarsat, which has offices in Miami and Washington D.C., continues to provide mobile satellite services to Iranian ships.
Ms. Darshan-Leitner said, “We will not tolerate Inmarsat’s – or any corporation’s – profiting from the blood of innocent people. Anything short of immediate and decisive action on our part would be akin to acceptance. It is a simple issue of justice: Inmarsat must uphold its legal obligations in compliance with U.S. Treasury regulations and immediately cease its support for Iran.”
Followings is the text of Shurat HaDin’s letter to Inmarsat
10 Hata’as St.
Ramat Gan 52512,
July 25, 2012
Andrew Sukawaty – Executive Chairman
Rupert Pearce, Esq. – Director and Chief Executive Officer
Rick Medlock – Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer
John Rennocks – Deputy Chairman
Alison Horrocks – Director, Senior Vice President and Secretary
Sir Bryan Carsberg – Director
Stephen Davidson – Director
Admiral James Ellis Jr (Rtd) – Director Kathleen Flaherty – Director
Janice Obuchowski – Director
99 City Road
London EC1Y 1AX
Via Fax: 44 (0)20 7728 1142
1101Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
Via Fax: 202 248 5177
Re: Criminal and Civil Liability of Inmarsat and its Officers and Directors Relating to Vessels Owned by, Operated by, or Dedicated to the Aid of The Islamic Republic of Iran
Dear Sir or Madam:
SHURAT HADIN—ISRAEL LAW CENTER, an Israeli organization dedicated to enforcing basic human rights through the legal system, represents victims of terrorism in courtrooms around the world. Among our clients are current judgment creditors of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It has come to our attention that Inmarsat* is providing satellite services to oil tankers and other vessels that are owned by, controlled by, or dedicated to the aid of Iran. On July 12, 2012 the United States Treasury further updated its lists of designated companies, individuals and property that American and non-American citizens are prohibited from engaging with. Many of the vessels listed by the Treasury are being provided satellite services by Inmarsat. (See http://www.treasury.gov/presscenter/press-releases/Pages/tg1634.aspx, http://www.treasury.gov/resourcecenter/ sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20120712.aspx#vessels ).
Please be advised that providing aid to Iran is illegal and will expose Inmarsat and its officers and directors to criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others who suffer as a result of Iran’s international sponsorship of terrorism. (See Abecassis v. Wyatt, 785 F.Supp.2d 614 (S.D. Tex. 2011) (allowing a suit to go forward against an oil and gas company and its officers and directors for engaging in business with a terrorist state.)) Additionally, by providing aid to Iran, Inmarsat subjects itself to forfeiture of its assets to judgment creditors who hold unenforced judgments against Iran. (See 28 U.S.C. § 1610 note and 28 U.S.C. § 1610(g) (permitting judgment creditors to execute judgments against the property of terrorist states); 31 C.F.R. §§ 535.311, 535.312 (defining “property” to include any “property, real, personal, or mixed, tangible or intangible, or interest or interests therein, present, future or contingent” and defining “interest,” as used in this sentence, to mean “an interest of any nature whatsoever, direct or indirect.”))
Since January 19, 1984, Iran has been and continues to be designated by the United States, pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, Section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act, as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. As a result of that designation, it is subject to numerous restrictions and sanctions under United States law and subjects those organizations that do business with it to numerous restrictions. According to the U.S. State Department, Iran is the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.” Further, “Iran’s financial, material, and logistic support for terrorist and militant groups throughout the Middle East and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy…. Iran [remains] the principal supporter of groups implacably opposed to the Middle East Peace Process.”
Moreover, the international economic sanctions regime imposed against Iran along with the regulations enacted by the United States Treasury and the European Union are intended to deter the Iranian government from advancing its nuclear weapons program in violation of international law.
By materially supporting Iran’s oil industry, Inmarsat facilitates Iran’s terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program. To the extent that Inmarsat’s satellite support is utilized by Iran’s military agencies, Inmarsat is a direct participator in Iran’s terrorist activities and nuclear weapons program.
Provision of communications services constitutes the provision of “material support or resources” pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2339A. Such provision therefore subjects Inmarsat to criminal liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A, 2339B, 2339C and to civil liability pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2333 (see Boim v. Holy Land Foundation, 549 F.3d 685, 690-91 (7th Cir. 2008) (en banc)). The United States Supreme Court has ruled that material support liability exists without regard to the criminal or terror inducing intent of the material supporter. Indeed, gifts to the purely charitable objectives of a terrorist state or organization are actionable because, in the words of the Court,
Money is fungible, and when foreign terrorist organizations that have a dual structure raise funds, they highlight the civilian and humanitarian ends to which such moneys could be put. But there is reason to believe that foreign terrorist organizations do not maintain legitimate financial firewalls between those funds raised for civil, nonviolent activities, and those ultimately used to support violent, terrorist operations. Thus, funds raised ostensibly for charitable purposes have in the past been redirected by some terrorist groups to fund the purchase of arms and explosives.
Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 2705, 2720, 2729 (2010). (Internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The analysis in Holder is no less accurate (or binding) when applied to the business activities of a sophisticated sovereign entity that orchestrates terrorist operations globally. (A copy of Holder is attached to this letter for your review.)
Moreover, 31 C.F.R. § 535.201, et seq., prohibits all parties (including non- Americans) from transporting, selling, transferring, exporting, or dealing with any property (including oil) that Iran has any interest of any nature whatsoever. The regulations freeze all such property within the United States and expressly prohibit any action designed to evade the regulations. Violators are subject to a civil penalty not to exceed the greater of $250,000 or an amount that is twice the amount of the transaction that is the basis of the violation and a criminal penalty not to exceed $1,000,000, twenty years in prison, or both. 31 C.F.R. § 535.701. While Inmarsat might not operate the vessels that carry Iranian property, Inmarsat’s services enable those vessels to operate and is thus the proximate cause, acting pursuant to contract, of the illegal actions of another.
That Iran pretends that its vessels are owned by another sovereign is not sufficient to avoid liability under the above sections. Nor is it sufficient if Iran has actually effected legal transfer of its vessels (or reflagging) if Iran retains effective control over the vessels or if the vessels are primarily or materially dedicated to the support of Iran.
In light of the above, we request that you immediately provide us written confirmation that Inmarsat has permanently discontinued the provision of all services, including satellite and communications services, to Iran, all of its vessels, all vessels effectively controlled by Iran, and all vessels primarily or materially dedicated to servicing, aiding, or trading on behalf of Iran.
Absent such immediate confirmation, we will seek all available relief and remedies against Inmarsat in all relevant jurisdictions.
Very truly yours,
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Esq.,
Director Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center
* All references in this letter to “Inmarsat” include Inmarsat PLC and Inmarsat Inc., as well as all subsidiaries thereof and all entities affiliate therewith. Where appropriate, it also includes Inmarsat’s officers and directors.