Press Release: U.K. Firm Fined $2 Million after Pleading Guilty to Illegally Exporting Boeing 747 Aircraft to Iran

May 11, 2010

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  • United Kingdom

Balli Aviation Ltd., a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Balli Group PLC, was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to pay a $2 million fine and to serve a five-year corporate period of probation after pleading guilty on Feb. 5, 2010, to a two-count criminal information in connection with its illegal export of commercial Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran.

The sentence was announced today by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machem Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; David W. Mills, Commerce Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement; and Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Consistent with the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle sentenced Balli Aviation Ltd. to a maximum fine of $2 million and corporate probation for five years. The $2 million fine, combined with a related $15 million civil settlement among Balli Group PLC, Balli Aviation Ltd., the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), is one of the largest fines for an export violation in BIS history.

Under the terms of the related civil settlement, Balli Group PLC and Balli Aviation Ltd. have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $15 million, of which $2 million will be suspended if there are no further export control violations. In addition, Balli Aviation Ltd. and Balli Group PLC are denied export privileges for five years, although this penalty will be suspended provided that neither Balli Aviation, Ltd. nor Balli Group PLC commits any export violations and pays the civil penalty. Under the terms of the settlement, Balli Group PLC and Balli Aviation, Ltd. will also have to submit the results of an independent audit of its export compliance program to BIS and OFAC for each of the next five years.

According to count one of the criminal information filed with the court, beginning in at least October 2007, through July 2008, Balli Aviation Ltd. conspired to export three Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran without first having obtained the required export license from BIS or authorization from OFAC, in violation of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the Iranian Transactions Regulations. Specifically, the information states that Balli Aviation Ltd., through its subsidiaries, the Blue Sky Companies, purchased U.S.-origin aircraft with financing obtained from an Iranian airline and caused these aircraft to be exported to Iran without obtaining the required U.S. government licenses. Further, Balli Aviation Ltd. entered into lease arrangements that permitted the Iranian airline to use the U.S.-origin aircraft for flights in and out of Iran.

Count two of the criminal information states that Balli Aviation Ltd. violated a Temporary Denial Order (TDO) issued by BIS on March 17, 2008, that prohibited the company from conducting any transaction involving any item subject to the EAR. Starting in or about March 2008 and continuing through about August 2008, Balli Aviation Ltd. willfully violated the TDO by carrying on negotiations with others concerning buying, receiving, using, selling and delivering U.S.-origin aircraft which went to the Export Administration Regulations.

In announcing today's sentence, Assistant Attorney General Kris, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Secretary Mills, and OFAC Director Szubin commended Assistant Director for Operations John Sonderman, Special Agent in Charge Rick Shimon, Special Agent Joseph Varga, and Chief Counsel Attorney Gregory Michelsen, all of the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security. They also thanked Trial Attorney Jonathan C. Poling of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Asuncion of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, who prosecuted this matter.