(AVIATIONWEEK) - The aviation arm of U.K. trading company Balli Group has been fined $15 million after pleading guilty to illegally exporting three Boeing 747s to Iran.
London-based Balli is headed by Iranian-born Vahid Alaghband.
Between 2005 and 2008, the U.S. Justice Dept. says, Balli Aviation purchased the U.S.-origin aircraft through its subsidiary Blue Sky Companies with financing from “an Iranian airline” and exported the aircraft to Iran without 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,” the DOJ says. Flag carrier Iran Air is the only Iranian airline listed as operating 747s, with a fleet of nine.
Balli has agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine and be placed on corporate probation for five years. In addition, the company is to pay a $15 million civil penalty of which $2 million will be suspended if there are no further export control violations. The civil settlement was agreed to with the Commerce Dept.’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the Treasury Dept.’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The DOJ says the fine is one of the largest for an export violation in BIS history.
A 2005 report, presented at the 36th session of the International Civil Aviation Organization, reported that the U.S. sanctions had endangered the safety of civil aviation in Iran because it prevented Iran from acquiring parts and support essential for aviation safety. It also stated that the sanctions were contrary to article 44 of the Chicago convention (to which the US is a member). The ICAO report said aviation safety affects human lives and human rights, stands above political differences, and that the assembly should bring international public pressure on the United States to lift the sanctions against Iran.
Currently U.S. sanctions against Iran include an embargo on dealings with Iran by the United States, and a ban on selling aircraft and repair parts to Iranian aviation companies. On June 24, 2010, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions which President Obama signed into law July 1, 2010.